Professional Authority

Professional authority encompasses the power, relative autonomy, intellectual and political influence and respect that we as professional nurses are accorded within health care systems and society at-large because we provide our distinctive service very well. It is our recognition and society's recognition of our distinctive expertise as professional nurses. Importantly, our professional authority is contingent on our taking responsibility for a high standard of service and our related professional-self confidence and visibility.

Our professional authority rests on the fact that we know best about nursing people. We know the distinctive service that the nursing profession has to offer. In collaboration with patients, we are best able to choose how the nursing profession can foster their health as human flourishing. This dimension was derived from historical data that demonstrated the 19th century nurses power in the health systems of their day. It was a power grounded in public acknowledgement of the exemplary nursing service they provided. Theirs was an understated power which was, nonetheless, well recognised.

The dimension is operationally defined by its three concepts, shown in purple colour in the diagram below. They take place within the context of the philosophy and in relation to the other three practice dimensions. 

As yet this dimension and its concepts are not well developed. But, professional authority has a special role within the practice model in that it is both integral to our practice and an outcome of our practice. It is a sort of internal outcome of implementing the other three practice model dimensions very well. As we implement them very well, we become more aware of our practice expertise; we know what we are doing, why we are doing it, and what we plan with patients for them to achieve.

The diagram below shows professional authority circulating back into the other three practice model dimensions. Together with the other practice dimensions the diagram points to the overall outcome of implementing the philosophy and practice model, that is, optimal patient healing and health, or sometimes a peaceful end of life. 

Three Concepts 

Professional Responsibility

Nurses' accountability - our being answerable - to individuals, families and communities in relation to the profession's social mandate by which we are obligated to provide a particular public service. By definition nursing service encompasses protecting sick, injured and vulnerable members of society from harm and fostering their healing and health. 

Professional-Self Confidence

Nurses' strong, yet gracious and unassuming, sense of professional affirmation that arises from providing a skilled and valuable public service. It is reinforced by our deep commitment to professional nursing values and skills, and the conviction that there is very little in the domain of nursing service that we cannot accomplish.

Professional Visibility

Recognition of the nursing profession at all levels of society for its distinctive and effective contribution to fostering healing and health. It includes our engagement within the health service and society at-large by giving voice to and writing about nursing and nursing's contribution to health care. We do this by contributing to the professional literature and the activities of professional organisations. We contribute also to the lay press and engage in media and other public debates on health related issues.


Therese C. Meehan ¬©   March 2015