The Importance of Professionalism in Healthcare and Nursing

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Professionalism is a word used to describe how one should behave and dress themselves to exhibit good manners and show good business sense. How a person comes to work and conduct themselves is a huge component related to work ethic (Wynd, 2003). Having a strong work ethic often suggests that a person will produce high quality work and take pride in doing a great job. In healthcare professionalism is imperative due to the changing nature of work and care being provided (Akhtar-Danesh, 2013). Therefore, there are multiple definitions for professionalism in nursing. Professionalism is not new to the work force however many professions struggle with encouraging and ensuring employees know what is acceptable in the workplace (Blythe, 2008). Without a standard to be held accountable to many professional businesses would not be sufficient to provide care for the public.

In healthcare, professional etiquette is one of the major influences contributing to a positive career (Blythe, 2008). Personal interactions with a variety of people require the healthcare professional to have respectable relationships with everyone they encounter. Being empathetic and kind is one of the key factors in developing a patient's confidence and trust. Having bedside manner is also a key component in professionalism as a healthcare professional (Akhtar-Danesh, 2013). Patient safety is the main priority and when there is a breach in professionalism it can leave many patients at risk. However, when these commitments are not met healthcare professionals face malpractice suits, abuse cases, and fraud.

Characteristics of Professionals

The traits of professionalism may vary from one person to the next however honesty is the one of the first traits. No one wants to work with someone who is untrustworthy. Lying about situations that could potentially cause a patient their life is unacceptable in the workplace. Additionally, having respect for others in all situations while also being courteous shows maturity (Jeroen Postma, 2015). As an employee taking advice and criticism without feelings of distain can demonstrate respect. Verbal or physical abuse of any kind is not acceptable in the workplace. Without respect an employee will not have relationships with coworkers or patients. Respect must be shown to every individual in the workplace.

Also, professionals exhibit willingness to take on projects and always has the best interest of the patient at heart. A great attitude will make work more enjoyable while also having good humor and being able to laugh at self no matter the situation at hand (Wynd, 2003). Conduct is a huge component of professionalism due to the high standards healthcare professionals are held. An employee should conduct themselves in a way that reflects their profession. Ethics should always be held and followed while also maintaining confidentiality pertaining to patient's records. A professional encompasses self-awareness, social skills, and self-confidence. This includes displaying leadership skills and decision making abilities (Wynd, 2003). Lastly, a professional continues to seek out resources necessary to remain competent in their field of study.

Professional Dress

Over the last fifteen years' business attire has changed significantly. Many have long forgotten then importance of proper professional attire (Saiki, 2006). Dressing in the proper business attire presents a visual image and conveys the message that employees are professional. In creative working environments, the rules on professional dress are not as strict and employees tend to dress more freely and comfortable (Cardon, 2009). However, many companies typically require a more professional dress code to preserve the professional atmosphere in which employees interact frequently with patients, clients, and business partners.

Problems arise when employees choose to dress comfortably or in the most recent styles because this does not portray the professional image for the business (Cardon, 2009). Also, impromptu business meetings occur all the time and professional business attire should be worn during this time. During business meetings, your image should always be professional, this could make or break a very important business deal. The image presented to an outsider will be the image they'll always remember.

The dress code for men is typically limited when it comes to clothes acceptable in a professional setting. Depending on the setting men are normally recommended to wear ironed trousers, dress shirt, and polished shoes (Twenge, 2008). The styles should stay conservative with limited colors. However, these rules will not apply to the male working in a more creative environment where there is more freedom compared to business locations. It is also recommended that men receive a clean shave and well-groomed hair. Showing up to work with unruly hair is a sign of sloppiness and does not make a good impression to other workers. It is very important to remember to brush teeth and clean the nails (Cardon, 2009). Clothes should never be dirty or wrinkled as this presents a very sloppy appearance. While these are some of the basic elements they tend to be overlooked in many business locations.

In the business setting women are required to dress conservative with either a dress suit, skirt, pants, business style dresses. Neutral shades such as brown, white, and black are less flamboyant and should be considered. Women should always avoid short skirts or shirts that show off too much cleavage (Twenge, 2008). As this could be perceived as a sign of disrespect and maybe even sexual harassment in certain situations. Be mindful of the companies' policies when it comes to hair color, nails, makeup and accessories. When in doubt of a piece of clothing always remember to cover up. Some items that should never be worn in the workplace includes sneakers, flip flops, low-waist pants, jingly jewelry, heels that clank, shorts, tracksuits, fishnets, animal print, negligees, and heavy perfume (Twenge, 2008).

Why is Professionalism Required in Nursing?

Many learn the fundamentals of basic care in nursing school but few fail to recall the importance of professionalism in the nursing profession. There are core values in the nursing profession such as honesty, patient equality, responsibility, and the belief in human dignity (Michael N Wiggins, 2009). All patients deserve to receive non-biased care no matter the size, age, color, or background. In the healthcare field professionals are required to view all patients the same no matter the status of the patients. Any attributes that may cause the healthcare professional to become biased should be overlooked if it will interfere with the quality of care received by the patient (Jeroen Postma, 2015).

Difficult patients can often leave staff angry and resentful, during this time it is important to remember to remain calm. A professional nurse must always remain in control of their temper. While it is hard to remember when dealing with difficult patients, it is imperative to understand that the patient is in the hospital or medical setting to receive care and that is the priority (Blythe, 2008). Many patients that act out or exhibit angry behavior are of the times simply terrified or apprehensive about their current situation. During this time, therapeutic communication will be needed to carefully understand how the patient is feeling during this time of despair.

Integrity is an attribute all professionals should exhibit however that is not always the case. Nurses are trusted with very confidential information and any mishaps with this information could be a legal violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA). Medical records are confidential and should never be openly discussed with anyone other than the healthcare team involved with that patient. Confidential information in the wrong hands can lead to defamation of the patient and could potentially result in the healthcare professional losing their job.

Nursing is a profession that requires a multidisciplinary approach. All hospital staff are involved to ensure patient care. Working well with a team makes the workload a bit more manageable and allows the nurse to provide adequate patient care. With the high rates of nursing shortages teamwork has been associated with a higher level of job satisfaction. Teamwork reduces the level of burnout among nurses as no one person is responsible for a patient's health. A nurse must also remain disciplined when providing care. Adhering to schedules and patients monitoring ensures the safety of the patient. Any lack in discipline could compromise patient care and lead to chaos in the hospital setting. Displaying a willingness to help will be praised and much appreciated by fellow nurses. A nurse who offers a helping hand to patients and peers are often the most trusted and respected individuals.

As mentioned earlier attitude is a huge part of professionalism. Having a nurse with a bad attitude jeopardizes the patients and makes the staff uncomfortable. There is a higher probability for mistakes if a person is in a bad mood. This results from a lack of focus and a distraction by whatever stressors causing the bad attitude. Nurses are often perceived as the back bone of healthcare and having a good attitude can go far. A positive attitude can impact job performance and be the defining factor in the relationship building with a patient. Having a positive attitude can also produce a good reputation on the job and further advance your career.

Lastly, the first impression is often the last impression. The appearance of a nurse can either make or break a relationship with a patient. If a nurse arrives in wrinkled scrubs, messy hair, dirty shoes, and nasty nails a patient may become apprehensive about receiving care from the nurse. The patient my view the nurse as lazy and may often relate this to the level of care they may receive. It is imperative for a nurse to be well-groomed and appear in an organized manner to promote professionalism in the work place.

Legal Issues

The lack of professionalism can burden the healthcare field with expensive repercussions. Depending on the severity of the situation many health care professionals can be faced with unemployment as well. Many nurses are faced with failure to assess and monitor. As we know the health of a patient can take a decline in a matter of minutes. It is very important for the nurse to assess and monitor the patient while also documenting everything that occurred during each assessment. Assessing and monitoring in a timely fashion can be the difference between life and death for the patient. This could result in the hospital being charged with negligence. In most cases the hospital will settle with the patient which could total millions.

Nurses are also deemed responsible for the failure to use medical equipment in a responsible manner which is another form of malpractice. Today nurses are accountable for many task while the nurse to patient ratio steadily increases. It is however the nurse responsibility to be sure the equipment works and functions properly before approaching the patient. The nurse should be trained on how to appropriately operate the medical equipment and be aware of any limitations of the equipment. It is not recommended that nurses make any adjustments to the equipment and that they follow the correct guidelines written by the manufacturers. Any errors made while using the equipment can result in the death of a patient. Every piece of equipment should be handled responsibly and thoroughly.

Documentation is a vital part of the nursing practice, if it's not documented it didn't happen. All documentation should reflect the care provided and the nursing processes provided during the nurse to patient interaction. The documentation should be detailed covering the full nursing assessment of the patient, diagnosis, planning, interventions, and patient's subjective data. Failure to document could result in a lapse in treatment due to incomplete medical chart. A patient could receive the wrong dosages in medication or not receive care at all pertaining to the information found in the chart.

Lastly, failure to follow standards of care could also be a form of negligence in patient care. There are standards and hospital policies that should be followed to protect the patients from unsatisfactory care. By following these standards, the nurse can ensure that the patient receives the appropriate care and that no necessary harm comes to the patient. Failure to review hospital policies and the standard of care could result in unsuitable care and ultimately death in a patient. To prevent negligence and malpractice the nurse should trust their judgment but only on a case by case basis. Nurses are potentially held accountable for their judgement and should be aware of the decisions being made.


Professionalism is necessary in any work environment but most importantly in the healthcare field. Healthcare professionals are responsible for the lives of patients and that should not be taken lightly. It is very important for every healthcare professional to be trained thoroughly while also maintaining the core values of professionalism. A small breach in professionalism can be the difference between life and death of a patient. It is essential for all staff to be well versed in their roles and for them to remain competent in their profession. Incorporating the legal principles into nursing practice will keep the nurse up to date on the hospitals policies and procedures as well.

Once again honesty is the key component of professionalism. It is important for all healthcare professionals to acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses. The nurse should only accept assignments they feel comfortable completing. Lastly, document all nursing care legibly and precisely. If no documentation is made the courts will assume the care was not provided.

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The Importance of Professionalism in Healthcare and Nursing. (2019, Apr 12). Retrieved June 23, 2024 , from

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