The concept of autonomy is regarded as an essential element for gaining professional status. Yet, it remains poorly defined and understood. To date, there is little research that has focused on exploring how nurses in different specialty areas perceive autonomy.
The purpose of this research was to explore oncology nurses' perceptions of autonomy and understand how they develop and exhibit autonomy in their everyday practice.
Using Leininger's ethnonursing method, data were collected from 15 oncology nurses using semistructured interviews. Participant observation was also carried out through job shadowing to complement interview data.
Three themes emerged from the findings: autonomy is an unspoken opportunity in the workplace; autonomy is developed through professional and personal growth acquired over time; and demonstrating autonomous behaviors is a conscious choice.
The findings provide insight into how oncology nurses perceive, develop, and exhibit autonomy in everyday practice and how autonomous and collaborative clinical decision making contributes to quality cancer care.
Implications for Practice:
Descriptions of the meaning of autonomy and its explication in a nursing specialty practice can add to nursing knowledge by clarifying nurse autonomy and its relevance to nurses' work life. Descriptive studies can identify nurse behaviors and attitudes related to autonomy that may be measurable and relevant to real life.