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Discussion: Who Controls Nursing?

Nursing developed, changed, and adapted to scientific progress and political, social, and economic changes throughout history. Providing care to the sick and injured became an indispensable general practice that saved thousands of people’s lives and became synonymous with alleviation, safety, and the common good. Nursing has always been inseparable from scientific and cultural aspects of life, evolving within specific legal and moral standards. In today’s world, nursing plays a crucial role in healthcare, and nurses’ authority and rights are defined by the positioning of nursing in the medical hierarchy.

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It is necessary to define what nursing is and to understand what the limits of nurses’ authority are. The World Health Organization defines nursing as an “autonomous and collaborative care of individuals of all ages, families, groups, and communities, sick or well and in all settings” (the WHO, n.d.). A nurse’s responsibilities might include taking care of a single patient or a group of people in all kinds of surroundings. Actual freedoms of a nurse in decision-making are derived from a hospital hierarchy and a nurse’s degree level. Nurses themselves need to preserve a certain level of autonomy to be able to make professional decisions.

The question of control over nursing is crucial in the relationship between the nurse and the patient and between the hospital and the nurse. In many countries, nurses make up half of all healthcare professionals (the WHO, n.d.). To regulate nursing, governments come up with various institutional and legal measures to manage public health. In the U.S., every state has a set of laws controlling the nursing practice. There are nursing boards established in most territories to regulate all five levels of nursing in the country: certified nursing assistant (CNA), licensed practical nurse (LPN), registered nurse (RN), advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP), and doctor of nursing practice (DNP).

For a government, to control nursing means having legislature and institutions that regulate nursing workers of all levels. The level of a nurse’s autonomy is determined by his or her qualification, among other factors. As nurses make up a very significant part of healthcare workers with a wide range of duties, they should preserve a certain level of autonomy to carry out their work. Modern medicine has complex legal frameworks designed to regulate relationships in public health realms. A nurse’s ability to act within such a framework is crucial for the professionalism of a healthcare worker at every level.


The World Health Organization. (n.d.). Nursing and Midwifery. Web.

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