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  1. Kramer, Marlene PhD, RN, FAAN
  2. Maguire, Patricia MN, RN, CNAA, BC
  3. Schmalenberg, Claudia E. MSN, RN


Despite high valuation and persistent challenges to nurses to function autonomously, neither the structures fostering clinical autonomy nor the relationship between autonomous practice and positive patient outcomes has been empirically established. Much of this is caused by the lack of precision in definition and measurement of the concept and identification of autonomy-enabling structures. The goal of this multisite, evidence-based management practice study is to provide an in-depth analysis of the concept and an articulation of a grounded theory of clinical autonomy preparatory to the identification of structures supporting autonomy. This article describes the research design and methodology and explicates the grounded theory by answering the following questions: What is clinical autonomy? When and where does it occur? Suggestions and recommendations for what could be done to clarify the concept and promote clinical autonomy are provided.