Professionalism in Nursing: What Does It Really Mean?


In order to understand the concept of professionalism in nursing, we first need to define the word profession. Webster describes profession as a “chosen, paid occupation requiring prolonged training and formal qualification.”

Professionals, therefore can be defined as individuals expected to display competent and skillful behaviors in alignment with their profession. Being professional then is the act of behaving in a manner defined and expected by the chosen profession.

This framework for professionalism in nursing began with our early roots with Florence Nightingale who set the bar rather high in regards to giving herself to others and her expectation of excellence in nursing practice. She was an inventor, a visionary, a missionary and she delivered all with a commitment to passion and love.

We, as nurses, are no different. We bear the tremendous responsibility of upholding the values of our profession. Our core nursing values define the driving force that dictates our beliefs and our behaviors.

Nursing as a profession embodies many values inherent in those who pursue nursing careers. When nurses are asked to identify their core values, they are surprisingly consistent throughout the profession globally. They include honesty, responsibility, pursuit of new knowledge, belief in human dignity, equality of all patients and the desire to prevent and alleviate suffering. In other words, all of us as nurses have chosen this profession to help others in need and to improve the quality of life for all. That mantra has not changed since the days of Florence Nightingale.

So how does this transfer to the expectations of your practice wherever you interface with patients? Your professionalism will be judged in your personal behaviors and how you present yourself to all those around you, and through those behaviors, you tell the world who you are. Components of your professionalism include your attitude, your appearance, and your willingness to help others. Let us explore these a bit.


Attitude in nursing is everything! The way you view your world and portray that view to others is everything. I am sure that you all can identify someone in your work environment with a terrible attitude that does their best to make the rest of the staff miserable.

Unfortunately, many times they are successful pulling everyone into the puddle with them. People behave like this because they are looking for attention and by sucking everyone else into their drama, they get that attention and control the environment. This type of behavior is counter to the expectations of the nursing profession to focus on helping others rather than focusing on our own problems.

Personal issues need to be left at home and not taken into the work area. There are always going to be times when we face issues in our lives that threaten our positive outlook. I find it helpful to be grateful for everything I have. I believe that waking up in the morning is the best thing that can happen to me and the rest of the day becomes a gift.

I had the opportunity to meet a wonderful woman who lost her daughter to cancer recently. A tremendous lesson for her was to be grateful for every minute she had with her daughter and to convert the “have to’s” to the “get to’s.” When her daughter was depressed that she had to go for more chemotherapy, she reframed that to the fact that she “got to” go for more chemotherapy, which kept her alive for much longer.

If we begin to be grateful for what we have, our whole outlook on life changes and the way we relate to people becomes more meaningful. Be grateful because you “get to” be a nurse, you get to pick up your kids from sports, you get to go grocery shopping, you get to wake up in the morning – the list goes on and on.


There is no way around the fact that people judge you by your personal appearance. Clean scrubs, neat hair, clean shoes and a well groomed look makes the statement that you care about yourself as a person and therefore have the capacity to care about others.

People that look sloppy may be perceived by others as unorganized, lazy, and uncaring. If you do not care about yourself, how can you truly care for others? A little attention to how you look goes a long way to display your professionalism.

Willingness to Help Others

What has amazed me in my nursing career for over 35 years is the observation that nurses do not necessarily support each other, as we should. There needs to be solidarity in our profession, and yet, what I have observed, is a more individualized approach where we, as nurses, are more worried about ourselves than the whole of the profession. This translates into your willingness to help others and to work together as a team, as well as speak positively about your profession whenever you can.

Remember, your profession is different from your nursing. At times, we, as nurses, may tend to talk negatively about the nursing profession because we do not like where we work, and that you have control over. There is no question that nursing is a tough profession, both physically and mentally, and that with changes in the economy and the pressures of health care reform, the work environment will become even more challenging.

To survive and actually thrive in nursing, we will all need to pull together as a profession and begin by working together at the bedside and being great team players willing to support each other. Something magical happens when we give to others; wonderful things begin to come back to us in far greater ways than what we have originally given.

My parting message to you all is that we, as nurses, the most trusted profession in the world, have so much to give. Show the world how wonderful we are by always putting your best foot forward not only for yourself, but also for all of us in this wonderful profession! You go nurse!


6 tips to cope with short-staffing and a nursing shortage

By: Jennifer Ward

Another kind of nursing shortage is commonly experienced nowadays in the form of being short-staffed. And it is caused by many factors. First, there are times when there are simply shortages of nurses available to a particular area. Or there are more patients than usual or more patients with serious illnesses. Sometimes short staffing cannot be solved or cannot be solved immediately. In cases such as these, make sure to utilize these tips:

  1. Contact the nursing administrator or your immediate supervisor right away.If you realize that you are short-staffed for a shift, this is the first thing you should do. Hopefully he or she can call some other nurses to see if they can come in for an extra shift or to help during the busiest hours. If this is not possible, they might be able to call in some additional nursing assistants and other support staff members.
  2. Emphasize teamwork.Along with other members of the healthcare team, you must work together well to make sure the needs of all patients are met. Nursing supervisors and administrators might need to take on more direct patient contact duties during times when there is a nursing shortage.
  3. Be organized.Everyone needs to know what they are expected to get done during their shift. Nurses should ensure that they have all of the necessary materials with them when performing a procedure for a patient. It is also necessary to prioritize. All nurses must work together to decide exactly what needs to be done first and to determine if there are any tasks that can wait until more nurses come on shift.
  4. Practice good communication.This is essential to avoid frustration and misunderstandings. You do not want any duties to take longer than necessary or to go undone as a result of poor communication. To ensure everything runs smoothly, nursing supervisors must communicate well with their nurses and certified nursing assistants to make sure there is a clear understanding of what to do and what to expect.
  5. Ask family members.They can do some non-medical tasks to help their loved ones. For example, they might prefer to brush their loved one’s hair, rather than having a nurse or nursing assistant do so. You should not, however, discuss any problems regarding short-staffing directly with family members.
  6. Set up a meeting with the other administrators and nurse managers.If you are a nursing administrator or a healthcare manager, you need to identify all problems associated with being understaffed. For example, are there certain shifts when staffing problems are worse than others? You need to all work together to try to figure out why you are short-staffed and if there is anything that can be done to help resolve this kind of nursing shortage.


10 Ways to Exemplify Nursing Leadership

By: EducationCareerArticles

It’s no secret that the nursing profession is one of service and dedication to patients and other healthcare staff. There are two ways to teach a person to do something, to tell them and to show them. Nurse Managers who take a servant leadership stance in their department are actively improving care. By demonstrating the role of a servant leader, nurses are demonstrating how nurses should treat their patients. Here are ten ways to demonstrate servant leadership.

Active listening: Attentively listen to the concerns of the nursing staff and support their conclusions accordingly.

Empathy: Make it a point to empathize with every nurse’s concern, regardless of how small it may seem.

Healing: Promote healing in the workplace by seeking a solution to differences, troubles and ultimately resolving any negative emotions.

Awareness: Emotional Intelligence is essential in the workplace as is being self-aware. Regardless of how you feel, always observe circumstances from a holistic perspective, considering all involved.

Persuasion: Rather than seeking to covertly influence someone to accept your point of view, use an assertive, but personal approach that will appeal to them.

Conceptualize: An effective leader must look beyond the immediate set of circumstances and situations in their department to develop a plan for long-term progress.

Foresight: Anticipate the likely result of decisions and strive to obtain the best possible outcome.

Stewardship: Make efficient use of resources in the department, from staff to materials. Give to others without concern of personal gain.

Commitment to the growth of others: Regardless of position or level in the department, have a commitment to seeing all staff grow and flourish.

Community: Understand the importance of building a sense of community in the workplace.

Health Care is Waiting for Nursing Professionals to Speak Their Minds

By: Lorie Brown

When I was a nurse, I did not want to share my thoughts on ways to improve patient care and now I realize I was not alone. A few months back “The Wall Street Journal” published a study showing that 33% of nursing professionals in a New York hospital said that they withheld ideas from their nursing supervisors. Another 29% said that they “sometimes” withheld ideas from their supervisor while 44% said they routinely withheld ideas from the surgeons they worked with and another 18% saying they “sometimes” withheld ideas from their surgeons.

I know nursing professionals have the answers on how to improve the working environment, the flow of work and patient care. Naturally, they are in the best position to see what is going on in the hospital and know what to do about any problems. When these great ideas are not expressed, patients get the short end of the stick.

Children have a natural ability to speak their minds. They say exactly what they feel and do not monitor their thoughts. As adults, we find this to be a fascinating and adorable trait in children, yet we somehow feel that if we speak our minds, we may hurt someone’s feelings or we may experience rejection or even some kind of retaliation.

Why are nurses unable or unwilling to speak their minds?

Nurses may not speak their minds for many reasons including: fear of discipline, concern their input will be rejected, believe that no one will take their input seriously or value their input, or feel that their input will not make a difference. For me, it was all of the above! I had these great thoughts on improving patient care, but felt no one would take me seriously or do anything about it. What this means for the patients is the great ideas of nurses likely will never be implemented.

When we do not speak our thoughts, ideas or truths, it comes with a cost. It can create illness and can become painful by causing anxiety, depression and unhappiness. We as nurses need to be healthy to take care of our patients and ourselves. By expressing yourself, you can make yourself happy by speaking your truths and, when you are happy, others around you will be happy as well. By expressing yourself, you can create camaraderie and effect positive change. Everyone wins!

While I would love to tell you to go out and give your employer a piece of your mind, that may not be the most sage advice! Next week, I will share with you tools which can eliminate the fear or beliefs that stop nursing professionals from speaking their minds and how to speak your mind to get the best results and stand in your power.

By Lorie Brown, Creator & Founder at | RN, MN, JD | Registered Nurse | Attorney | Author | Speaker | Transformational Leader | Lorie received her BSN from Indiana University, her MN from University of California at Los Angeles and her JD from Indiana University Indianapolis. Lorie has spent her career helping nurses. She has a private law practice in Indianapolis where she represents nurses before the Nursing Board. Lorie’s mission is to empower nurses to speak their mind, stand in their power and be a change agent to improve patient care.  Lorie would like to know if you are an empowered nurse. Take the quiz to find out at

5 Biggest Blunders Nurses Make in their Career!


By: Sue Heacock

Before jumping into the article, take a look in the mirror. See the human staring back at you? Nurses, like all other members of the human race, make mistakes. We are well aware that errors made by nurses can affect their career. It can impact the progression of healing and the life span of our patients. This article will not focus on those. Instead, we will concentrate on the 5 mistakes nurses make that impact their professional standing.

  1. Blame game. We have all worked with a “blame gamer”. He/she professes perfection in every way and any inconsistencies in practice are related to someone else. It was somehow Nurse Suzie’s fault that the blame gamer’s patient was administered the wrong dose of medicine even though Suzie works on the floor 2 stories up. Blame gamers quickly establish a reputation as complainers and a colleague not to be trusted. Don’t be that person and for that matter, don’t be personally associated with that person. Guilty by association will come into play with the blame gamer.
  2. Settling. Most of us get a position and like moss on an old oak tree, settle in for the long haul. Some nurses have no desire to elevate their career and further educate themselves. They become stagnant, losing both creativity and objectivity. I believe that you should never stop learning. Go for that higher degree you have been thinking about. This is not to say that if you are happy where you are it is not noble. But continue to educate yourself and excel in the position you are in. You don’t settle for the minimum in your personal life so you should not do so in your professional life.
  3. Not taking care of yourself. The combination of sleep deprivation, improper nutrition and lack of exercise lead to a highly ineffective nurse. Let’s be honest here. You are too tired to be “all that you can be” and you end up just going through the motions of patient care. Not taking care of yourself is a mistake that not only impacts your career but shortens your life. The irony of an unhealthy nurse is that he/she is educates patients on how to properly care for themselves and then runs out for the Big Mac or for a cigarette break.
  4. Cover-ups. Covering up a mistake simply compounds the error. There are HONEST mistakes, honestly! Remember the part about being human? If not, back to the mirror with you! Covering up mistakes demonstrates your lack of ethical fiber and forever tarnishes your trustworthiness. This is a career ender. If you make an error, fess up immediately so that any adverse impact to the patient can be quickly remedied. Early reporting also leads to quick root cause analysis and the elimination of similar nursing errors in the future.
  5. Burning bridges. Remember the “settling” part a few paragraphs back? If you burn your bridges, you can forget whatever you learned in that section as you will need to be settling in right where you are.  You will never get that promotion or positive reference. Visualize what happens a bridge literally burns.  That will be your nursing career going up in flames instead of the bridge and the ruble falling into the water is YOU! Treat your colleagues and supervisors with respect, follow the rules, and be the best nurse you can be for your patients. You can then step on that bridge at any time without having the fear of getting wet.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made as a nurse? How did you correct it? Leave a comment below!


10 Tips to Beat Anxiety When Taking the NCLEX Exam!!

By: Sue Heacock 

Whether you’re taking a short quiz or the NCLEX exam, you’re sure to encounter test anxiety. It is that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that makes you feel that you will inevitably fail, no matter what. It is the physical tension and the headache that creeps up on you as the big test draws near. It is that overwhelming “knowledge” that failing this single test will negatively impact the rest of your life.

So what can you do to conquer this fear? Here are 10 tips:

  1. Be prepared.  Nothing conquers anxiety more than confidence. Nothing builds confidence better than preparation. But how can you prepare?
  2. Study effectively.  When preparing for a test, especially in nursing, a student often feels overwhelmed. There is just too much information and so little time. So start studying the day you get the test date. Begin by investing some time organizing. Break the information into several subcategories and study only one block of information at each study session. Schedule manageable study sessions into each day, say after your nursing classes, and don’t let anything deter you from your schedule. And no, organizing your sock drawer or going out with friends for a quick dinner are not valid reasons to break your study schedule!
  3. Eat and sleep well.  Make sure to get a good night’s sleep and have a well-balanced, light meal before you take the test. Junk food or energy drinks are not replacements here! Don’t overeat or under sleep.
  4. Leave the notes at home and have no time for chit-chat.  You are ready. Don’t create stress by attempting last-minute studying, especially for the NCLEX exam. This will increase anxiety and leave you second-guessing what you know. Don’t study with your peers immediately prior to the test either. They may not be as prepared as you and their anxiety can rub off on you. You don’t want that since you are ready and focused.
  5. Take a breather.  Right before beginning the test, take three deep breaths, then go for it! As you do, think positively. Positive thoughts lead to positive results.
  6. Answer the ones you know first.  Okay, you have confidently mastered all of the information but now look at the first questions and draw a blank. Don’t worry, quickly move past any questions you are unsure of without giving them any thought. Finish the questions you know and go back to the ones you skipped last.
  7. It is not a race.  Don’t get uneasy because you are not the first or may even be the last to finish. Slow and steady wins the race. Focus on your test, not on what your peers are doing. There is usually no trophy for being the first one done.
  8. I can do this.  As you breeze through the test, continually focus on the confidence of your answers and how well you are doing. Drown out the negative with the positive.
  9. No check please.  When you have finished the questions you know, go back and complete the ones you skipped at first glance. Now, get up and turn in the test. Don’t go back over every answer and start second guessing yourself.
  10. Celebrate.  You prepared your best and scored your best so don’t obsess over your performance. Enjoy the rest of your day and think about the fact that you are one step closer from being a nursing student to a successful nurse. Most importantly, celebrate the “A” when you get the NCLEX exam or the test results back.


3 Types of Nurses at Work That Drive Us Nuts!!!


By: Jennifer Ward

Every day we meet a lot of various types of people. But handling different types of nurses at work can be a daunting task. It can be very frustrating working with lazy, difficult co-workers who don’t pull their weight. If you have been in this profession for any length of time, you know who I am talking about. Here are three types of co-workers that drive me nuts:

The Off-Duty Charge Nurse
This is the charge nurse who browses the Internet or reads a magazine while you are working. It can be frustrating trying to complain to management about this, and the only thing you can really do to protect yourself and your patients is to document that you have made him or her aware. If a situation is emergent, inform the house supervisor. If you are too overwhelmed with your demands, ask a co-worker for help. This doesn’t mean that you are incompetent. It just means that you are having “one of those days” and you will repay the favor when they have “one of those days.”

The Complainer
This is my least favorite. Every nursing unit has one. They express their complaints about everything: their assignment, the nurse aides, the patients, the weather…anything and everything. I usually try to change the subject and not give in to their complaining, or I just distance myself from them.

The Constant Talker
This is the nurse who is incapable of being silent and focusing on the job at hand. No matter what you are doing or how busy you are, they will insist on telling you all of their history and personal information. There are a few things you can do:

  • Avoid making eye contact. Keep doing whatever you were doing; just answer with, ”Uh-huh.”
  • Move to another area. Especially if you are charting, move to a quiet room so that you document effectively without interruption.
  • Ask, “Are you already done with your charting?” Sometimes dropping these sorts of hints helps clue them in to stop chatting and to get moving.
  • Let’s face it, none of us are perfect, but in order to create a more positive nursing work environment that runs smoothly, these tips can be helpful:
    • Stay positive.
    • Avoid gossip, and avoid being a “tattle tale!
    • Keep complaints to a minimum.
    • Be supportive of new staff to establish productive and successful nursing unit.
    • Help out nurse aides whenever possible. This demonstrates teamwork.
    • Help out overwhelmed co-workers.
    • Offer compliments followed by constructive criticism.
    • Acknowledge a job well done-show or tell them that you appreciate them and their performance.
    • Make an effort to get to know staff. Simply ask if they had a nice weekend or invite a newbie out to lunch.
    • Never criticize or punish in public. If someone deserves criticism or being punished, do so in private or with only another manager present. Also document the discussion and the outcome. Properly address mistakes to build teamwork in nursing.

Creating a work environment with positive energy can be challenging. After all, there are many different personalities that make up our workforce. Properly dealing with different types of nurses will help you gain respect and increase you work satisfaction. Do you have co-workers who drive you nuts? How do you handle them?