This paper shall discuss what it means to act professionally, based on my career as a nurse. Firstly, this paper will define professionalism in the context of health and human services delivery. Secondly, it will present an explanation of what it means to provide quality nursing care and services within a safe, ethical and legal context, in an individual and interprofessional framework. Finally, it will identify the mechanisms by which nurses’ behaviours are monitored, and how they may contribute to quality improvement mechanisms.
Professionalism is defined in different ways. According to Bhugra (2010, p. 103) professionalism “may be defined as a conglomerate of separate elements, such as honesty, empathy, reliability, self-awareness, competence, and so forth”. In this instance, professionalism is described as a combination of various elements and attitudes which are often needed in order to successfully establish a beneficial relationship between clients and nurses. In some ways, professionalism is also viewed as a complete ethical concept with almost no boundaries. With the different issues which nurses currently face, especially those which relate to conflicts of interest and market-place competition, professionalism helps ensure the competence “across an enlarging corpus of medical knowledge and technical skills” (Bhugra, 2010, p.103).
In considering its more specific applications to health care delivery, a health professional is one who has a primary technical and specialized knowledge and who advances and implements standards based on service rather than profit (Reiff, 2010). The health professional has cognitive and moral characteristics which can be familiarly couched in the Hippocratic Oath through the words, “I will practice my art with purity and holiness and for the benefit of the sick” (as cited Orme-Smith & Spicer, 2001, p. 251). Professionalism in nursing largely implies a responsibility to serve and care for others,