by Chris MacDonald (Nursing Ethics, 9:2, 2002)
Key words: autonomy; ethics; professionalism; standards
This article seeks an improved understanding of nurse autonomy by looking at nursing through the lens of what recent feminist scholars have called ‘relational’ autonomy. A relational understanding of autonomy means a shift away from older views focused on individuals achieving independence, towards a view that seeks meaningful self direction within a context of interdependency. The main claim made here is that nurse autonomy is, indeed, relational. The article begins with an explanation of the notion of relational autonomy. It then explains both the collective and the individual application of the term ‘professional autonomy’. Finally, it argues that both senses of professional autonomy are best understood as relational, and suggests some implications of this conclusion.
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