The concept of ‘Professional Autonomy’ is a widely used concept among some professions. By definition, professional autonomy refers to the process of having the freedom and authority to take decisions as per the knowledge base and experience of the professional. In many professions, the professionals are not given the freedom to take decisions (Johnson, 2010). The concept of professional autonomy is practiced in many professions and one of the professions to use this quite often is nursing. Other than nursing, the profession to practice professional autonomy is ‘Teaching’. Autonomy is considered important for health care workers, particularly nurses. Professional autonomy is very crucial for nursing profession since the health care setting requires the processes through which patients can be efficiently treated. Hence, providing authority to nurses to take decisions as per the condition is vital provided they are experienced and knowledgeable to do so. This essay explains about the concept of professional autonomy. The essay establishes how do the professions attempt to establish autonomy and what are main threats they face to their autonomy? In order to discuss this and support the definition and importance of professional autonomy with examples, the profession being selected is ‘Nursing’.
As per Merriam-Weber Online Dictionary, a professional is defined as an individual who meets the technical and ethical standards of a business. As per Australian Nursing Foundation or ANF, a professional in nursing is an individual who agrees to meet the ethics of his duty. Further, the individual must also meet the minimum standard of competence set by seniors in the profession. In health care setting, the health of patient is considered as a vital. It is considered that it is the primary duty of every nurse to use his/her best knowledge and skills to treat a patient (McGuire, 2005). Hence, nursing is considered as very committed and dedicated to unhealthy, ill patients, groups or communities. In order to encourage the concept of professional autonomy, American Nurses Association has created rules, legislations and takes steps for professional growth of nurses.
Besides nursing, teaching is also considered as a profession to be using professional autonomy. Public education is a trust and aims at preparing learners for a socially responsible life. It also aims at inculcating moral values in the person (Benveniste, 1987). In teaching, the professional autonomy goes beyond the ability to maintain a fixed set of professional freedoms. These freedoms include selecting own resource materials, methods of instructions and evaluating student programs. For teachers, their constant aim is to prepare students to use their judgements in order to take wiser students. However, there are many signs that make teaching, professionally autonomous. These signs include, teachers have the ability to write their own lessons, select their own professional development, ability to manage their own resources, ability to manage their classrooms as they want and the ability to collaborate with other teachers. This demonstrates that teaching is a professional autonomous profession.
These professions might also sometime threats in their autonomy. In nursing, some of the threats to being professional autonomous are leakage of private & confidential information, giving inappropriate care, reacting rude towards families and relatives of the patients, reacting rude with patients (Freund, 1995). Since nurses can have access to private and confidential information of the patients so there can be threats that nurses might not practice their authority and freedom illegally. This can lead to loss of private information of patient. Secondly, nurses have been given the freedom to provide health care to the patient as per his/her experience and knowledge. However, nurses might provide inappropriate care to patients which can lead many tragic consequences. Third, nurses might react rude towards families and relatives of patients (Larson, 2008). This is against the ethics of the nursing profession. However, nurses are always required to show respect towards families and relatives of patients. Respect is considered as foundational ethical principle in health care setting. Further, nurses are required to act respectfully and sensitively with patients. But there might be a chance when nurse doesn’t react respectfully with patients. Hence, these are some of the threats faced by nursing. On the other hand, teachers also face plenty of threats in order to be professionally autonomous. Teachers are required to prepare students for their better future. But there can be instances when teachers themselves are not creative and knowledgeable to teach students effectively. Secondly, it is crucial for teacher to handle students with care as whatever lessons they get at this stage will remain with them throughout their life. But if teachers don’t behave nicely with students, it can put negative impact on students (Jackson, 2010).
In nutshell, it can be considered that nurses have been the given the professional autonomy due to number of reasons. These reasons include because they have the responsibility of total care of patient, the power to make relationships with patient and his relatives and the authority to make clinical judgements. Nurses are responsible to act in the best possible way for public interest. They understand the role clearly and apply the best standards relevant to their role, practice and setting. The education of nurses has been held under expert nurses who are well-versed with theoretical knowledge and can train their juniors effectively. Also, the National League of Nursing makes constant efforts to ensure that education of the nurses is regularly provided. Due to this, there are testing services in nursing such as pre-entrance testing for competent students, achievement testing and examinations held to allot licenses to nurses to practice (Brown, 1992). Alternatively, teachers have been the given the professional autonomy due to number of reasons. These reasons include teachers have the ability to write their own lessons, select their own professional development, ability to manage their own resources, ability to manage their classrooms as they want and the ability to collaborate with other teachers.
Johnson, T. (2010). “Professions and Power.”, London: Heinemann.
Larkin, G. (2003). “Occupational Monopoly and Modern Medicine.”, London: Tavistock.
McGuire, B. (2005). “Health, Illness, and the Social Body: A Critical Sociology.”, New Jersey, USA: Prentice Hall, p.211.
Benveniste, G. (1987). “Professionalizing the Organization.”, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Larson, A. (2008). “The Rise of Professionalism: a Sociological Analysis.”, Berkeley, California: University of California Press, p.208
Brown, J. (1992). “The Definition of a Profession: the Authority of Metaphor in the History of Intelligence Testing.”, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, p.19.
Jackson, A. (2010). “Professions and Professionalization: Volume 3, Sociological Studies.”, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010, pp.23-24.
Freund, J. (1995). “ Health, Illness, and the Social Body: A Critical Sociology.”, New Jersey, USA: Prentice Hall, p.211.
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