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Registered nurses’ perceptions and experiences of autonomy: a descriptive phenomenological study

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posted on 2023-07-26, 14:48 authored by Titilayo O. Oshodi, Benjamin Bruneau, Rachel Crockett, Francia Kinchington, Shoba Nayar, Elizabeth West
Background: Professional autonomy is a key concept in understanding nurses’ roles in delivering patient care. Recent research exploring the role of autonomy in the nursing work environment indicated that English and American nurses had differing perceptions of autonomy. This qualitative study aimed to explore the understanding and experiences of autonomy of nurses working in England. Methods: A descriptive phenomenological analysis of data from 48 semi-structured interviews with registered nurses from two National Health Service (NHS) hospitals (purposive sample) was used to explore the concept of autonomy. Results: Six themes were identified: working independently; working in a team; having professional skills and knowledge; involvement in autonomy; boundaries around autonomy; and developing autonomy requires support. A key finding was that nurses related autonomy to their clinical work and to the immediate work environment of their ward, rather than to a wider professional context. Nurses also perceived that autonomy could be turned off and on rather than comprising an integrated aspect of nursing. Conclusions: Findings suggest that nurses in England, as framed by the sample, had a local ward-focused view of autonomy in comparison to nurses in America, who were reported to relate autonomy to a wider involvement in hospital level committees. Findings further indicate that autonomy was practiced occasionally, rather than incorporated into practice. Findings highlight the need for nurses in England to adopt a broader perspective and actively contribute to writing hospital guidelines and policies that recognise the importance of autonomy to nurse training and practice.



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BMC Nursing




BioMed Central

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  • eng

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Faculty of Health, Education, Medicine & Social Care

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