Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 4 (2) (1983)
Social contracts are the mechanisms by which society legitimizes professions and grants them authority and autonomy to carry out their functions. The nursing profession is currently renegotiating its contract with society in a manner which clearly reflects a change from physician dominance, and emphasis on illness care to increased independent and autonomous functioning within a newly developing framework of nursing science which emphasizes health care. In return for their services, nurses are also negotiating for those benefits which historically they have not received. These include legitimization of their newly acquired autonomous role functions, and adequate reimbursement mechanisms and structures. When the contemporary role of the nurse is fully legitimzed, the impact on contemporary society and health care is likely to be enormous.
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