‘Healswatch’: Nursing, What It Means to Act Professionally

Subject: Nursing
Pages: 8
Words: 1928
Reading time:
8 min
Study level: College


Nursing is regarded as a noble profession. There are many professions, but noble professionals can be counted with fingers. If the names of such professions are asked, one might mention social work, teaching, and other professions that are beneficial to mankind. But the list is literally incomplete without the mention of health care professions, the doctors and the nurses. They are entitled to the duty of saving precious lives. There is a lot of sacrifice in this line of duty.

The doctors are the most honored professionals of the society. When a patient gets cured it is the doctors who are regarded as the lifesavers. But the nurse’s profession remains as the most overlooked and underrated. The nursing profession asks for total dedication for the service and caring of patients.

The job of nursing is challenging and rewarding at the same time” (Artz, 2006). Therefore, many people opt to take this profession as a choice in spite of the hurdles and more or less thankless nature of the job. Being a professional nurse and to act according to professionalism is a tough task. This paper will provide an estimation of the degree of relation between nursing and professionalism (Artz, 2006). The paper has two components, nursing and professionalism. Let us define the two first.

What is nursing?

According to Artz (2006)

If the technical definition of nursing is to be worked out, it can be said that the health care practice that is implemented by the health care professionals or nurses through the processes of nursing in collaboration with other health care professionals is called nursing (Artz, 2006).

Nursing is needed to take care of ailing and injured for the recovery and maintenance of their health. The nurses use the nursing processes which include the assessment of the care “needed for the patient, planning, evaluation and implementation of the nursing care for the patient” (Artz, 2006). A significant level of education, skill and dedication is needed to work as nursing professional (American Nurses Association, 2004).

The above definition was the technical description of the profession which involves the knowledge of science. But along with that it is also an intricate art of saving lives. The lines of Florence Nightingale (1868) are the best ones for drawing the correct picture of nursing,

“Nursing is an art, and, if it is to be made an art, requires as exclusive a devotion, as hard a preparation, as any painter’s or sculptor’s work; for what is the having to do with dead canvas or cold marble, compared with having to do with the living body- the temple of God’s spirit? It is one of the fine Arts; I had almost said, the finest of the Fine Arts” (Pandey, 2010).

Meaning of being professional

The first step of defining Professionalism is to define a professional.

A professional is someone practicing a particular vocation of occupation based upon a specific education. The professional needs a degree in the specific field he/she is working in. Because professionals are trusted for their skills by the people for a specific service they have to maintain strict ethical and moral regulations. Here nursing is the profession and nurses are the professionals working in the health care field.

Professionalism actually relates to handling an occupation very effectively by the professional honoring the trust the other people keep on them. Edward B. Toupin in his article, “Professionalism….. How do I get one?” (Toupin, 2002), says about professionalism that it is “a focused, accountable, confident, competent, motivation toward a particular goal, with respect for hierarchy and humanity, less the emotion” (Toupin, 2002).

Meaning of professional nursing

Now when nursing and professionalism are both fully understood, the combination of the two will give the shape to professional nursing. The definition of nursing from a professional point of view can be

“the process in which substantial specialized knowledge derived from the biological, physical, and behavioral sciences is applied to: the care, diagnosis, treatment, counsel and health teaching of persons who are experiencing changes in the normal health processes or who require assistance in the maintenance of health or the prevention or management of illness, injury or infirmity” (Ahmad, 2009).

If the technical definition is simplified, professionalism in nursing is a combination of skills and knowledge with patience, ethical values, dedication to the service of the community, nursing regulations and ideologies. The attitude the nurse has for the profession defines professionalism as well (American Nurses Association, 2004).

Professional nursing: various aspects

Professionalism in nursing carries certain aspects with it. Professionalism can be challenged, read and understood. But, how should a nurse act to express the highest extent of professionalism? There are various things that count. Right from the looks to the attitude the nurse keeps for the profession defines the degree of professionalism and the degree of trust also varies with that. It is essential to know how the degree of professional is expressed. The duties or functions of the nurse, job descriptions at various levels of nursing profession and the ethical issues that the nursing professionals face form an important part of the profession (Artz, 2006).

Being professional in nursing

Florence Nightingale can be called the pioneer in bringing professionalism in nursing. She definitely played a very crucial role in redefining and revolutionizing the management system of patients, taking care of hygiene and looking after several other important aspects of nursing. Because of her efforts nursing advanced towards getting the status of a full fledged profession. She had seen nursing as a blend of professional disciplines and selfless dedication (American Nurses Association, 2004). A general definition of professionalism in nursing that can cover all the attributes of the job will be

set of activities, tasks and nurse duties carried out by the registered nurses, at any time whenever it is required, keeping the person’s health as their first priority”( Pandey, 2010).

Definitions are many that define professionalism in nursing. But when it is time to act as a professional, there comes certain criteria that a nurse has to fulfill. A professional nurse should be visibly different from others and carry a personality that helps the people depending on her to trust her completely. The ways to behave and extreme sincerity towards the duty are some of the important aspects that a nurse should always comply professionally (American Nurses Association, 2004). The main points of professional nursing that really matters can be noted down as in a precise form as follows:

  1. A professional look – Though it might appear that the efficiency and sincerity of the professional is more important than the look, but it is a proven fact that looking professional is really necessary to be trusted by people. Therefore a professional nurse has to dress up clean and confident just to look perfect for the profession (Artz, 2006).
  2. An equally professional approach for everybody – In a noble profession like nursing there is no scope of discriminating between people while dealing with them. Everyone whom the nurse interacts with should get equal treatment, respect and dignity (American Nurses Association, 2004).
  3. A professional open mind for learning newer things – Knowledge of each and every field keeps getting updated. True professionalism demands the updating of knowledge and open mindedness to the newer developments that are coming forward. So a professional nurse also should keep on updating of the knowledge in the filed she/he is working in. This can be done through attending conferences, reading research journals or using other sources of information like the internet (American Nurses Association, 2004).
  4. Doing justice to the profession – Responding to the call of the duty is the utmost important necessity of the profession. In any circumstances a professional nurse should not step back to perform the duty. After all, the attitude that a professional has for the profession determines the degree of professionalism.

Being a professional does not only depend on the four above points. There are many other large and small factors that make a person thorough professional. But these are the main points that are the pillars of professionalism (Artz, 2006).

Functions of a nurse in general

Defining the functions or duties of a professional nurse actually depends on the level or position the nurse in which she/he is working. But there can be a generalization of nursing duties which are performed by all the professional nurses irrespective of the positions at some time or other (NYSNA, 2004). These duties include

  1. Assessment of health status of patients and implementation of the nursing practices.
  2. Evaluation and determination of the health status to meet the patient’s needs.
  3. Delivery of professional nursing care in any given set up.
  4. Educating the individuals including the patients and the family members.
  5. Working in collaboration with the other health professionals to promote health care” (American Nurses Association, 2004).
  6. Taking decisions when needed for the well being of the patients (Jackson, 2010).

There are specific nursing duties which are performed by nurses at different specific levels (American Nurses Association, 2004). Each and every level has separate job descriptions

Ethical issues faced in the nursing profession

In the nursing profession sometimes certain issues arise that have ethical issues involved in them. These issues are mainly sensitive ones which bring about a lot of dilemma and challenge in the decision making capacity and the ability to choose the nursing profession. These issues may be of the following types

  1. Staff shortage that can limit the patients’ proper care.
  2. Maintaining the standard of care in the crisis or shortage of staff.
  3. Decision taking about refusing a patient.
  4. Deciding about the patients’ rights (American Nurses Association, 2004).
  5. Decision making about prolonging of terminating life support system when the quality of life is concerned.
  6. Decision making regarding restraining a patient (American Nurses Association, 2004).
  7. Dilemma on providing care to a patient that might endangered the nurse’s life.
  8. Handling issues of differences in opinion with other circles of people including the patient.
  9. Any decision regarding the medical technologies like use of stem cells from embryos (NSNA, 2004).

The situations are the testing times of the profession when a nurse has to apply all the common senses and the decision making capacities to see that nobody is hurt, either from the point of view of physical or psychological perspectives. Along with that the safety of the patients and their well being also has to be kept intact at any expense (American Nurses Association, 2004).


People tend to lack the gesture of thanking the nurses when they get well in a hospital, at home or any other health care set up. They generally thank the doctors for everything. However without the care the professional nurses take of the patients the treatment of the doctors can never be as effective as they appear. Joan Lynaugh, Nursing Historian, says, “Most people know they can’t get into the hospital without a doctor. What they don’t know is that they won’t get out of one at least not alive without a nurse” (Nevada Nurses Association, 2009).

It definitely seems unfair. But nursing is a profession that is defined by selfless dedication without any expectation of appreciation. That is the very fact makes it rewarding and challenging at t he same time. That is why people still choose to go for nursing as a profession without thinking of any returns. The job satisfaction and the zeal to serve the community drive them to the profession (Artz, 2006). And, when the professional discipline and attitudes are blended with the thought of selfless service, it makes nursing one of the most respected professions of the world.


Ahmad, N. (2009). Professionalism in Nursing. Web.

American Nurses Association. (2004). Nursing: scope and standards of practice. Washington, DC: Author.

American Nurses Association is best placed source on the topic of nursing and professionalism. This association looks over the welfare and goodwill of the nursing profession and thus, this book elaborates the details of rules and regulation of this specific professions along with proper suggestions to better the existing scenario.

Artz, M. (2006). Ask not what nursing can do for you… Nurses have a lot of power. American Journal of Nursing 106 (9), 91-92.

The author Artz has written several articles on the issue of nursing community with deep insights that evaluate and analyze the position and condition of professionalism inside the nursing community. Thus, the author is extremely well placed to discuss the professionalism issue in nursing.

Jackson, O. (2010). Registered nurse. Web.

Nevada Nurses Association. (2009). Professionalism in nursing. Web.

NYSNA. (2004). Role of the Registered Professional Nurse in Ethical Decision-Making. Web.

Pandey, K. (2010). Professionalism in Nursing. Web.

Toupin, E. (2002). Professionalism… How do I get one? Web.