Professional autonomy in nursing: An integrative review



To summarize knowledge of professional autonomy in nursing.


Professional autonomy is associated with experienced meaningfulness of the work. This refers to participation in decision-making and the ability to influence working practices.


In an integrative review, relevant studies were retrieved from four databases. Quality was systematically evaluated using critical appraisal tools. PRISMA guidelines were followed. Inductive content analysis was used to analyse current knowledge of the focal subject.

Key issues

The search identified 27 relevant studies published between 2000 and 2019. Elements describing nurses’ professional autonomy were independence in decision-making and ability to utilize one’s own competence. Themes relating to nurses’ professional autonomy were shared leadership, professional skills, inter- and intra-professional collaboration and healthy work environment.


Understanding the multidimensional nature of professional autonomy is essential to create attractive work environments. It is important to enable nurses to participate in decision-making and develop nursing through shared leadership to enhance the recruitment and retention of a skilled workforce.

Implications for Nursing Management

The findings have anticipated utility for supporting nursing practice and nurse leaders’ understanding of approaches to foster nurses’ professional autonomy.

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Pursio, K, Kankkunen, P, Sanner-Stiehr, E, Kvist, T. Professional autonomy in nursing: An integrative review. J Nurs Manag. 2021; 00: 1– 13.