Are You a Nursing Professional?

By Stephanie Staples on Thu, Jan 10, 2013

nursing professional

There are so many different levels of nursing with such a variety of healthcare providers. With this, how would you still know who is a nursing professional? Gone are the days of telltale nursing caps, white pantyhose and dress uniforms. Most nurses welcome scrubs and crocs with open arms! This leaves many patients, residents or clients wondering who the professional staff is and who is housekeeping.

This led me to wonder, what makes a nurse professional?

Is it the number of letters after someone’s name? Is it their position? Is it their personal qualities and behavior? Can the unit clerk or housekeeper be considered a professional?

I am sure you have met many "professionals" with fancy titles, lovely offices and more letters after their name than you have in your own name. Some of whom have left you with a very sour taste in your mouth after dealing with their unprofessional behavior.

Furthermore, I am certain that we have all met less educated providers that impress us with their honesty, integrity and caring behavior towards those on any level of the social, educational or economic scale: the janitor who takes great pride in his shiny floors, the ward clerk who is always one step ahead, or the LPN/ LVN who has an uncanny yet accurate intuition when it comes to patients' needs.

So, what does a nursing professional look like? How does one act and behave? How can we, as nurses, become more professional no matter what or how many letters come after our name?

  • A professional looks the part.

    Like it or not, the way you dress is important. You can be the sharpest tool in the shed but if you are covered in dirt, it will be hard for anyone to tell. Professionals spend the time, money and energy to look the part. Maybe it shouldn’t matter, but it does. Sorry.

  • A professional treats everyone with respect.

    Whether it's a colleague, patient, resident, or client, nursing professionals treat everyone in their nursing practice with dignity and respect. They see value in each person, no matter how high or low on the totem pole they happen to be. This is not always an easy thing to do, but it surely is always the right thing to do.

  • A professional commits to life-long learning.

    School is never out for us, whether it’s "automobile university" (listening to informative CD’s in the car), always having a book on the go, keeping up to date with professional magazines or websites, attending personal or professional conferences, or simply by listening and learning from others.

  • A professional does their best at what they are being paid to do.

    They are committed to excellence whether they "feel like it" or not; whether external circumstances warrant it or not.

Can anyone with the right attitude be a professional in nursing? Yes. Nurses, you may have specialized nursing skills and training, perhaps more so than your lesser skilled colleagues. You invested more years in schooling and obtaining nursing education than some of your peers. But, what is to be gained by holding yourself high and making others feel low?

Instead, what if we hold the bar high for everyone? If we treat everyone we work with as professionals and expect everyone to act like a professional in the realm of what they do, I would bet my last nickel we wouldn’t be disappointed!

So a number of questions beg to be asked:

  1. Are you a nursing professional?
  2. What could you do to act MORE professionally?
  3. Do you treat others professionally?
  4. What could you do differently to improve professionalism in your workplace?
  5. How would things be better in your workplace if you treated others more professionally?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue! Leave a comment below or E-mail me at Stephanie@yourlifeunlimited.ca.



27 COMMENTS

Robyn Stephens 11 months ago
As a Managing Partner of a nurse uniform manufacturer, and a full-time working RN in a major metropolitan hospital, I know first hand what nurses like in uniforms. Many of us don't really like the traditional scrub uniform and I hear so many nurses say, "I feel like I'm wearing pajamas to work everyday." So I have launched a new jumpsuit style nurse uniform to help nurses bring fashion to the workplace. Our company was an exhibitor at the Uniform Retailers Association Trade Show in San Diego this year, and I can tell you there will be many neon colors in stores in the coming year. Patients will see healthcare workers walk into the room in almost pure darkness! But I can tell you that my jumpsuit design was the first and only design to break the scrubs mold for uniform fashion! It was the most popular design in the fashion show I am PROUD to say! As a new Woman-Owned Small Business, I was able to rock the uniform world and I really surprised every other manufacturer when they found out I'm not even from the fashion apparel industry. They didn't know what to think when they found out I'm also a full time working nurse managing about 350 employees in my hospital's departments. Besides my new design (and I am developing 15-20 new designs that we will introduce in the coming year), we are also manufacturing a new product line of certified antimicrobial uniforms, lab coats, patient gowns, bed linens, towels, chef uniforms, etc. Our products kill 99.91% bacteria within 4 hours on contact. This is REALLY important since studies have shown MRSA to remain viable on regular cotton for over 20 days and on polyester for over 40 days. VRE remains viable on both types of fabric for over 80 days. Did you know that a study involving an American University hospital revealed 52% of the nurses uniforms tested positive for either MRSA or VRE by the end of their shift. Physicians lab coats revealed a 79% positive test result. What's worse, was over have of those uniforms that tested positive, also tested positive after only 3 hours of their shift. And to think how few of us change out of our uniforms before leaving work to head home or to our favorite fast food or dine in restaurant, our favorite grocery store, big box retail store, the shopping mall, theater, etc. Visit our website (still in development) at http://nurseangelsclothing.com. If your favorite store doesn't currently carry our products, please ask them to contact us! We will have our own on-line retail store available before the end of the year too.

Anonymous 3 years ago
Am a nursing student and i find the article very intresting. I read each comment and i would like to say that conflict arise every where in any profession and its up to an individual to choose their path and to know that behavior is learnt and we can either chose to make war or peace in the nursing profession and to keep in mind that nurses work with vulnerable people.I am persuing nursing because its my passion and i want to be a nurse by proffesion because its the most rewarding career in the world.

Anonymous 3 years ago
THIS ARTICLE REALLY HELPED IN MY DECISION AND WHAT NURSING IS ALL ABOUT.

Anonymous 3 years ago
Thanks alot my dear writer. My prayer everyday is for God to bring revival into Nursing profession because it keep depreciating everyday. This issue of hierarchy is the cause of not been professional. Some of them at the top always victimize the junior Nurses. But wen other profession are there they cannot fight for us. They belittle theirselves in their presence but fight the junior Nurses. I pray they will begin to see Nursing as a profession and no longer a vocation. I rest my case

Anonymous 3 years ago
This article is lovely. But it is not realistic. I have always tried to portray all of the qualities noted. But the nursing profession is a disgrace on many levels to the word "professional". Joint Commission is finally stepping up and guidelines for lateral violence in the work place are being developed. Long over due. The things I have seen over the years have shocked and me over and over. I find it very hard to have respect for other nurses, until they prove to me that they are worthy of it. And alas, that is most often not the case. Again, the article is lovely and how I looked at things most of my career. But no longer.

Anonymous 4 years ago
Thanks for a brilliant piece of writing. I feel nursing profession is one of the best profession.

Anonymous 4 years ago

Wow...I am looking for info on Professionalism in Nursing and stumbled upon this conversation. Curious indeed in regards to the different perspectives on what constitutes a "professional" and what that looks like to different people. I am seeking ways to engage staff in regards to professional standards and expectations as I as a Nurse Educator am finding that many see their work as "a job" and that those in leadership positions are somehow seen as responsible for providing all their education needs. There seems to be a attitude of entitlement and apathy. Basically I find staff are far more educated on what is in their contract than what is in their standards of practice. This constitutes a lack of professionalism in my opinion and I want to address it to create a sense of pride and commitment. Considering that all media protraits of nurses are either doctors' lackies, or drug addicts or something resembling a prostitute and no one in the public really knows what nurses do are we really that surprised by how confused everyone is. I am a professional because I act that way and know myself as such but how do we instill that in ourselves and each other when everything is stacked against it. It is a challenge that I am willing to address and I guess I will see what happens.


Anonymous 4 years ago

I have been a nurse for the past 40 years and i have been ejoying all my life time giving care. There are always something new about nursing, researching is always there, so keep your knowledge up to date.


Anonymous 4 years ago

I have been a nurse for 15 years and have found there is the good, the bad and the ugly nurse wherever I go. I strive to be professional, caring and empathetic to others whether collegues or clients. Hope our new young nurses will find a seasoned professional and caring mentor to learn and grow with. As long as I have been in nursing, I still learn something new each and every day.


Anonymous 4 years ago

Yes, i too agree with others that nurses have so much changed especially socially.You find nurses who take liquor in there uniforms or smoking which sends wrong message to who will be our clients and our patients. Our profession is noble hence our conduct must be noble


Anonymous 4 years ago

Yes, i too agree with others that nurses have so much changed especially socially.You find nurses who take liquor in there uniforms or smoking which sends wrong message to who will be our clients and our patients. Our profession is noble hence our conduct must be noble


Anonymous 4 years ago

I have been an RN/BSN for about 22 years and Tom C and Lyn have said it all. Nurses used to be considered 1 or 2 among the most respected occupations - but I fear that is changing rapidly. Nurses are acting less and less professionally - towards eachother and towards their patients. The way nurses treat eachother is driving many quality people out of nursing.


Anonymous 4 years ago

I did enjoy this article. I have been a nurse for 36 yrs 18 as a LPN and 18 as RN, and have seen many changes. As far as dressing the part, I think the way nurses wear T-shirts under their scrubs and hang out under the bottoms, or they bend over and you see the beginning of their buttocks is offensive and non-professional. Many comments mentions "eating the young", sometimes this is hard not to, as the younger generation feel they do not have to work toward anything, Hello everyone, I am now done with school, I don't want to work weekends, no holidays and I WANT straight days." Makes me wondering what they were thinking why they chose nursing as a profession. I have never had an nursing educator I didn't like, but mine had been around the block. I do feel that nursing is a profession and I will continue to encourage anyone interested in helping people choose this profession.


Anonymous 4 years ago

Tom C should take another look at the definition of profession which in short is "a vocation founded upon specialised educational training... Nursing is listed as being a recogised profession as well as accountants, teachers, etc. Autonomy, though a defining characteristic, is not one of the main criteria. These would include,though not limited to: 1. Education 2. Training in the field 3. Taking an exam in theories of the field 4. Licensure 5. Continuing education 6. Code of ethics for the profession as defined by a governing body of said profession. Sounds like the process nurses have to go through to me! Now I think some others are confusing the profession with professionals. Every profession has individuals that do not behave according to standards set by that profession, this is what this article is about. It's asking if you hold yourself to professional standards, the fact that not every nurse does does not change the fact nursing is a profession. And Tom, are you really a nurse? What union are you talking about, I have worked acute care, long term and home health. I have never belonged to or been offered to belong to a union in nursing. Also nurses have autonomy, sure we have superiors to answer to, any profession does. But I ask you who makes the patient care plans? Not the doctors who spend maybe 5 minutes in the patients room.


Anonymous 4 years ago

Great food for thought. Who are we?? Professional is a word that connotes "good at"-We have doctors-lawyers (all considered professional) Then.. you have professional students-professional thieves!!?? See what I mean? I do feel it to be a mindset. I like being a nurse-I will do what must be done to know my specialty (ICU-cardiac-peds-administrative). I will share my expertise with those who ask or need guidance. I will seek out others that also share their knowledge. Different viewpoints can be life/career saving. It's not just a job.


Anonymous 4 years ago

Just curious; where does that leave teachers? They are much more unionized than nurses. I am a 41 year RN, still actively working,vital,& learning. I was taught we are a profession; by virtue of our education,comittment,goals, & education.


Anonymous 4 years ago

As a BSN Student I found this article so refreshing. I was taking a study break and read it to see how relevant it would be to my current status as a student. I found it to be right on target with the current learning course that we engage in while being monitored and tested constantly. Reading your article makes one keep in mind that after the graduation the professionalism doesn't stop we just get an opportunity to refine it more. Thanks. I plan to share this article with my classmate


Anonymous 4 years ago

I do like this article and the various comments/views. I know I can feel more professional when I go to the beauty shop regularly. I tend to dress clean and neat, ironing scrubs when necessary, although I don't like ironing! Continuing education is something I have to push myself to do when it comes to attending classes like at a college or university but I do like CEUs online and seminars. I have been told I provide excellent patient care and treat others with respect regardless of occupation. I can relate most to the comment Karen M made but I really enjoy nursing and don't think I will 'throw in the towel' just yet. I was an LVN for 3 years, ADN, RN 11 years now and I have seen a lot, good and bad, but overall I have come to the conclusion that there are nurses of all kinds; some are nice, kind hearted, some are mean and cold. I decided I wanted to be a nurse when I was in kindergarten and later when I was about 7 years old and was admitted to a hospital. I still remember some nurses were kind and some were not so kind. I decided then, when I grew up, I wanted to be a nice nurse and I have been told by my patients, coworkers, and supervisors that I have great 'bedside manner'. I will continue to work on the other areas I fall short on: Nicer hair styles and work toward BSN.


Anonymous 4 years ago

As an RN of nearly 30 yrs, I am still amazed when I witness the 'eating of the young' in our so called 'profession'. It is a shame that some people feel the need to belittle others in order to make themselves look good. How will we ever solve the nursing shortage by sabotaging and discouraging our new & prospective nurses? How will they learn if we keep our knowledge to ourselves? How will they ever view nursing as a respected profession if they don't believe in themselves? Nursing is not for the faint of heart! Therefore, we must be mentors, encouraging, supporting and nurturing those who choose to take this road. After all, we may need them to care for us in a few short years!


Anonymous 4 years ago

When the matrix of evaluation criteria is laid out, Tom is right. Nursing is not a profession. We try to behave like one, but we have a LONG way to go in so many areas. I know this makes so many nurses mad to hear this, but until the reality is addressed and we stop acting like employees and start taking ownership of our practice we will remain the "workforce".


Anonymous 4 years ago

Tom C, Nursing will be a true profession when nurses make it a profession. When we ALL look the part and act the part, we will elevate the profession to where it should have always been. This means no more "eating young" back biting, or treating our co workers disrespectfully. We are not entitled to act upon our feelings. We are professionals, bound by professional rules of conduct that must be followed at all times. When women and men enter the nursing profession with this expectation, nursing will change for the better, there is no doubt. I hope that you will be a change agent for your profession! I have always striven to be one, and I know that it is not easy, to say the least!Thanks to Stephanie. This article was inspiring to a nurse who is tired of the unprofessional nursing behavior experienced in her career as a nurse, and is considering changing professions.


Anonymous 4 years ago

I appreciate your article. I do believe we define our nursing profession by our ethical behavior and quality care for our patients and their families, our colleagues, and all members of the interdisciplinary team. If I present myself in a professional manner, I will be treated as such. Sometimes professionalism needs to be defined for everyone to be on the same page, as suggested in the article. If someone chooses to believe that nursing is not a profession, that is their choice. But I have worked as a nursing professional for many years and will continue to do so for many more.


Anonymous 4 years ago

A profession, from a labor economics perspective, is a function of autonomy, i.e. can you practice alone? Clearly physicians, attorneys, clergy, CPA's can along with many other roles can, but in this key attribute of a profession, nursing is incredibly limited. This isn't to suggest that we can't have professional ethics or goals, still we run the risk of not aligning ourselves with the reality around us if we insist we're "professionals" when we are not. Professionals, for example, don't unionize, technical labor forces do. I appreciate the piece in regard to attributes to professional behavior, but is nursing a profession? I'm afraid not.


Anonymous 4 years ago

You sound quite professional yet compassionate enough to understand the feeling of others.Its really good to see people knowledgeable with the sense of compassion in it.


Anonymous 4 years ago

One part of being a professional is to "behave" as defined by a code of ethics, nursing has this code. The very fact a group has come together and written down what is expected is PART of what defines one as a professional..you have confused being ethical with being professional...the definition of a profession does include a standard for education, autonomy, ongoing professional development, relevance to society, self-regulation, etc. Everyone can be ethical, not everyone fulfills the tenets of being a professional.


Anonymous 4 years ago

Loved the article.  Wish it would address presentation in the work place in respect to conversation at the nurses station and behavior. I work with young people who think cell phones and internet surfing is acceptable.


Anonymous 4 years ago

Dear stephanie u were words were inspiring rather than informative.These words made me to rethink whether i'm a professional?