The concept of professionalism can be understood better after defining the word profession. Behrend et al. (2006) defines Profession as a chosen, paid, occupation that requires a prolonged training and formal qualification. Therefore, professionals are individuals who are expected to display proficient and skillful behaviors in accordance with their profession. Professionalism, therefore, means the act of behaving in a manner that is expected by a given profession. In nursing, professionalism was started by Florence Nightingale who established nursing profession fundamentals such as patient care, cleanliness and management, and set higher degree of professionalism and respectability standards (Behrend et al., 2006).
According to Nightingale, nursing profession embodies many core values inherent in those who pursue nursing careers. The core values are consistent globally and they include honesty, responsibility, and belief in human dignity, desire to prevent and alleviate sufferings, equality for all patients and pursuit of new knowledge among many others. Ideally, nurses choose nursing profession to help others and improve their quality of life in their practice. Professionalism of a nurse is judged by the way he/she behaves when interacting with patients or any person in the line of practice (Hoffart and Woods, 2009).
Importance of Professionalism in Nursing
Non-biased care for patients
Professionalism in nursing allows nurses to handle patients of all ages, sizes, colors, races, and backgrounds without bias. It enables them to see a patient as a patient without focusing on some attributes that are disliked personally. Any kind of prejudice from a nurse hinders the quality of patient care and builds a negative reputation of the hospital. A professional nurse will display a very high standard of non-biased patient care (Hoffart and Woods, 2009).
Ferguson-Pare et al. (2008) argues that, professionalism enables the nurse to keep and maintain the records of patients. Medical records are confidential. Therefore, a professional nurse keeps the patient’s confidential data and presents it to the right party. Professionalism and integrity of the nurse in nursing profession is to keep confidential maters confidential.
A terrible attitude makes things difficult at work place. In nursing, a nurse with aterrible attitude makes patients and the rest of the staff miserable. Such a nurse seeks everybody’s attention and wants to take control of the environment (Behrend et al., 2006). This kind of attitude contradicts nursing profession core value of helping others other than focusing on ones problems. Personal problems are not supposed to interfere with nursing practice because, they may bring bad attitude to practice. Professionalism helps a nurse with a terrible attitude to work on his or her attitude to be able to provide quality care and make the workplace conducive for patients and staff.
A nurse has a great deal of responsibility ranging from responsible patient care, monitoring delicate equipments hooked to the patient, responsible handling of medication, and keeping medical records safe. Professionalism requires the nurse to take all these responsibilities seriously to avoid making mistakes and suffer the consequences of irresponsibility and misconduct. For instance when a nurse gives wrong medication to a patient, he/she takes the responsibility of any consequences thereafter.
Honesty is a vital quality in nursing profession that emanates into being in different contexts. For instance, when a real professional nurse has medicated a patient with wrong medications, he/she willfully, reports to the physician the error honestly in time to help save the patient. Unprofessional nurses choose to lie to avoid taking the responsibility which finally leads to poor practice and more patient sufferings (Behrend et al., 2006).
Nursing profession depends entirely on team work. Professionalism enables a professional nurse to collaborate with the entire hospital staff to provide ultimate patient care. Teamwork helps the entire hospital to avoid expensive hassles. For instance, when a hospital is filled to capacity and every hand is required, a professional nurse will not ask and insist for a vacation time off. Professionalism makes him/her to hold back self and work with others for the benefit of the entire hospital (Ferguson-Pare et al., 2008).
A professional nurse will take care of his/her appearance because appearance tells who a person is. Appearance of a nurse can instill confidence in a patient or total mistrust and fear. For example, a nurse who walks into practice with ungroomed hair, chewed-on nails, wrinkly and shabby scrubs, junk jewelry, and torn shoes or in slippers. Such nurses will loss patient respect, other staff and families. Bad appearance will associate the nurse with laziness, uncaring and unorganized. Professionalism in nursing helps the nurse to watch his/her appearance to win patient confidence (Ferguson-Pare et al., 2008).
Willingness to help others
The fundamental value of nursing profession is to provide help to others. Hoffart and Woods (2009) provide that, when a nurse becomes willing to help others, he/she portrays a professional attitude which is most appreciated in nursing. A professional nurse is always ready to help patients, other nurses and families. Willingness to help makes the nurse to be trusted and seen as someone with core value of goodness. Nightingale built nursing profession on two pillars, which include goodness and care. Therefore, professionalism helps nurses to practice these core values to promote the quality of patient care.
Timeliness is very important in nursing profession. A nurse must keep watch on medication schedules, patient monitoring and reporting time for duty. If a nurse sits back and sleeps, patient medication schedules will not take place on time and this will compromise patient care. In addition, nurses are supposed to report on duty in time to relieve the previous nurse. If they delay in reporting to duty, they will easily cause annoyance to other staff members and this may cause chaos in the hospital. Thus professionalism is needed in the area of discipline so that time is adhered to and not allowing personal life to interfere with nursing practice (Hoffart and Woods, 2009).
Behrend, B., Finch, D., Emerick, C., and Scoble, K. (2006). Articulating Professional Nursing Practice Behaviors. Journal of Nursing Administration 16(2): 20-24.
Ferguson-Pare, M., Closson,T., and Tully, S. (2008). Nursing Best Practice Guidelines: A Gift for Advancing Professional Practice in Every Environment. Hospital Quarterly 5(3): 66-68.
Hoffart, N., and Woods,C. Q. (2009). Elements of a Nursing Professional Practice Model. Journal of Professional Nursing 12(6): 354-64.