Clinical Power

Contributor: E. Carol Polifroni
October 6, 2018

Author: E. Carol Polifroni, RN, EdD, CNE, NEA-BC, ANEF

Year First Published – 2010

© 2018 E. Carol Polifroni

Major Concepts

Truth, right, power

Authenticity, freedom, intentionality



Awareness and relationship


A theory which can be used to understand, teach and apply power to practice.

Brief Description

Clinical power is a dynamic theory built on the work of Foucault, Barrett, Chinn, and Heiman & Timms. It centers around the belief that power is knowledge and all nurses possess that power. In this context power is a right and it is truth/knowledge. Intentionality, authenticity, ways of knowing, PEACE (as explicated by Chinn) and CARE (as defined by Falk) surround the awareness and relationship of the nurse who is exercising clinical power. The theory posits that power is within all and, as a nurse, one has a right to the power as a result of knowledge. Like Heiman & Timm’s new power, clinical power is a bottom up approach ; it is not hierarchical nor taken from someone else. It is inherent in the agency of self.

Primary Source

Polifroni, EC. (2010). Power, right, and truth: Foucault’s triangle as a model for clinical power. Nursing Science Quarterly, 23(1)8-12.


E. Carol Polifroni (1950- ) 

An educator, researcher and clinician…Carol has more than four decades of experience in nursing. Her expertise is in culture of health, quality, finance, critical care nursing and philosophy of science as well as administration.