Professionalism in nursing means much more than simply wearing a uniform and speaking politely. It encompasses a set of values that are critical to elevating the quality of patient care while improving the methods, standards, and judgments that guide nursing practices every day. Working in professional environments can help nurses develop skills that are valuable at any stage of their career, from novice clinical roles to senior leadership positions. Accumulating work experience and pursuing higher education can create further opportunities to strengthen core professional values.
Professionalism in Nursing: The Basics
In nursing, professionalism reflects the act of providing quality patient care while honoring the values of respect, advocacy, and responsibility. Professionalism also extends to a nurse’s ability to communicate clearly and self-reflect on behaviors and actions, always striving for both professional and personal development.
A study published in the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research (IJNMR) groups the diverse components of nursing professionalism into three equally important categories: cognitive, attitudinal, and psychomotor.
- Cognitive – The cognitive type of professionalism focuses on the ability to continually learn about professional conduct and apply this growing base of knowledge in work settings. Ultimately, nurses who practice this skill should develop the key tools they need to prioritize and make decisions effectively.
- Attitudinal – The attitudinal dimension of nursing professionalism involves the attitudes and ideas that guide nurses as they perform their job duties and advance through their careers. Ideally, the attitudes of nurses should align with practical standards and the broader goals of their organizations. A nurse’s willingness to be flexible and make compromises for the greater good has a major bearing on the ability to navigate professional challenges that lie ahead.
- Psychomotor – The psychomotor aspect of professionalism in nursing promotes the idea that as professionals gain experience, they can do more than build their clinical skills. They can sharpen their management skills and better understand the inherent obligations and commitments involved in the practice of nursing. Over the span of their careers, nurses can implement proven methods to bolster their self-discipline and self-learning skills.
Nurses may apply these principles of professional conduct to become better leaders, guide actions using value judgments, and establish self-directed commitments to provide the highest level of patient care.
Real-World Applications of Nursing Professionalism
There are many ways in which nurses can exhibit professionalism to benefit their patients, organizations, coworkers, and careers. According to the code of professional standards as outlined by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), nurse professionals in health care settings can do their best to customize care to patients’ needs, proactively collaborate with medical staff, and act with honesty and integrity, especially when under pressure. Other guidelines speak to additional core components of nursing professionalism, including the following.
- Care Comes First – Communication is key. Listen to others, and provide information and advice clearly so every patient can understand. Make well-informed decisions that are best for the patient. Do not accept gifts for preferential treatment.
- Individual Treatment – Treat patients and colleagues as individuals with their own unique values, beliefs, and needs.
- Respect Dignity – Protect patient privacy. Never give client information to an unauthorized person, and preserve anonymity when citing patient cases in coursework, research, or other public documents.
- Work Together – Cooperate with team members and respect their contributions. Always treat everyone with respect.
- High Standards of Care – Be punctual. Acknowledge when a situation is beyond your professional scope. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Honesty and Integrity – Do not plagiarize coursework or professional assessments. Compile an accurate CV to reflect your education and work experience. Always aspire to the highest levels of personal and professional conduct.
- Uphold Reputation – Be aware that all actions—even outside of work—may have consequences.
Benefits of Professionalism
Exhibiting professionalism in the practice of nursing has many benefits. One of the most important is that it helps ensure and safeguard the health and well-being of patients. For example, treating patients respectfully and providing them with easy-to-understand facts can encourage them to make better personal health decisions. Maintaining collaborative relationships and clear lines of communication can enable medical teams to share patient information and plan treatment options more efficiently and securely. Providing team members opportunities to ask for help is a sound strategy that can help minimize the risk of harmful mistakes.
Professionalism also positively impacts the atmosphere and efficiency of health care institutions. Encouraging and maintaining a culture of respect, cooperation, honesty, and integrity allows nurses to inspire close-knit team collaboration, unified by the common goal of providing the best possible care for patients. By promoting communication and compassion, professionalism may reduce the risks associated with workplace conflict that can result from biases or personal differences.
Skills Attributed to Professionalism
Professionalism fosters the development of many admirable soft skills. Nurses may learn these skills through their life and work experience, and develop them over the course of their careers. Examples include:
- Conflict resolution – This involves a professional’s ability to de-escalate a problem. It requires the nurse to consider the needs of everyone involved in the conflict, while communicating possible solutions with respect.
- Ethical thinking – This skill enables nurses to make value-based judgments that align with professional standards and moral codes, prioritizing the needs of patients and colleagues ahead of their own.
- Adaptability – This demonstrates the capacity to combine new information with education, experience, and professional guidelines to re-evaluate a situation and make changes that lead to more effective solutions.
- Leadership – A sought-after attribute, leadership is founded on excellent communication skills, attention to detail, respect, and resourcefulness. Professionals commonly build leadership skills as they move on to more senior roles in which they can guide others to provide higher levels of care.
- Collaboration – This is key to professionalism. Working with others and being able to communicate and cooperate is crucial to developing an efficient work environment that places patient needs at the forefront.
The development of professionalism in nursing is an ongoing process; there are always new and changing areas in which to improve. In the workplace, nurse professionals should self-reflect on their actions and integrate new, experience-based knowledge into their daily practices. When it comes to education, advanced nursing degree programs are an excellent way to provide additional avenues to sharpen professional skills.
Earning a DNP is a valuable pursuit for nurses who wish to elevate their leadership skills and develop new clinical expertise as their careers mature. According to the Journal of Nursing Education, the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) curriculum educates aspiring nurse leaders “to provide care management, critical and complex clinical judgment, nursing therapeutics, and the appropriate use of technology to effect change.”
Regis College helps career driven nurses to take the next step in their careers with the online BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice program. RNs with a bachelor’s degree who enroll in the program experience the same rigorous academic classes as traditional students while having the flexibility of online courses.