Nurses’ experience of individual, group-based, and professional autonomy

Jitske M.C. Both-Nwabuwe*, Marjolein Lips-Wiersma, Maria T.M. Dijkstra, Bianca Beersma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: Autonomy and meaningful work (MW) have both been positively related to work satisfaction for nurses, however, the relationship between the various forms of autonomy and MW is unclear. Both autonomy and MW are complex concepts, and it is important to understand how different forms of autonomy, such as individual, professional, and perceived group-based autonomy, influence different dimensions of MW such as Expressing Full Potential and Service to Others. It is critical to fully understand the autonomy/MW relationship, because this knowledge can serve as a basis for developing effective and efficient interventions. Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to better understand the relationship between autonomy and MW by examining the autonomy–MW framework. Methods: Multilevel analyses using data from 510 nurses nested within four organizational divisions from three health care organizations were conducted. The Comprehensive Meaningful Works Scale was used to measure multiple dimensions of MW. Findings: Our study demonstrated that individual and professional autonomy have significant positive relationships with six of the seven MW dimensions. Perceived group autonomy has significant positive, though weak, relationships with two dimensions of MW. Discussion: Our results show that different forms of autonomy relate differently to the dimensions of MW and as such demonstrate that the relationship between autonomy and MW is not a simple input–output relationship. Our results show partial support for the autonomy–MW framework. Health care organizations that want to cultivate MW should not automatically implement autonomous teams but rather understand that a combination of autonomy practices could lead to MW.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)734-746
Number of pages13
JournalNursing Outlook
Issue number6
Early online date15 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • CMWS
  • Individual autonomy
  • Meaningful work
  • Nursing
  • Perceived group autonomy
  • Professional autonomy


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