Professionalism can be defined as a set of attitudes, skills, behaviors and values which are expected of those to whom society has extended the privilege of being considered a professional. It can also be defined as the, aims, qualities or conduct that characterize or mark a professional person profession. A professional is someone characterized by, or conforming to, the technical or ethical standards of a profession. The core of professionalism includes honesty and integrity, altruism, respect, responsibility and accountability, compassion and empathy, dedication and self improvement (Hendelman, 2009).
According to Girard, Linton, & Besner (2005), professional nursing practice is an obligation to, compassion, caring and strong ethical values; accountability and responsibility for insightful practice continuous development of self and others; demonstrating a spirit of flexibility and collaboration. Nurses should put into action their values and the attributes of professionalism when providing nursing care and collaborating with patients, colleagues and students.
There are several aspects of the nursing practice that are related to professional values. There is an educational background required in nursing to ensure safe and effective practice. All professional nursing care providers must complete educational programs that are Board certified or meet minimum criteria to be qualified for licensure. Members of the profession must also adhere to a code of ethics. Nursing professions hold and develop members accountable to general ethical values. Members of the nursing profession also participate in organizations which aspire to advance and support the profession such as ANA, CNA and PTPO. The licensed nursing providers maintain their knowledge base current by informal and formal ongoing educational, and can demonstrate competency when required. This makes members accountable for continuing education and competency. This is a key component in professionalism, and it is well manifested in the nursing profession.
Professional nurses further the education of peers by sharing their knowledge through communication and/or training and published works. The nursing practice has not been left out in this and prominent nurses often publish papers in journals on new findings on their respective specialty. Another relationship between the nursing practice and professional values is its autonomous and self-regulating nature. Nurses make independent decisions within their scale of practice and are accountable for those decisions (Hendelman, 2009). Therefore, they should always exercise extreme caution before taking the decisions. As a show of being involved in community service, professional nurses formally and informally share health care knowledge in their communities. Members of the profession are also involved in research. Nurses and individual nursing providers are essentially involved in research and increasing the knowledge base. Finally, each profession nurse participates in determining individual and group conduct, and responsibilities. To this end, the nursing profession participates in the regulation of its member’s adherence to its own professional standards.
Accountability can be defined as being answerable to an action or decision. Accountability is used as a normative concept, as a set of standards for the behavior of public actors, or as a desirable state of affairs. For example, nurse leaders demonstrate accountability and take responsibility for outcomes. This involves doing activities like monitoring effects of decisions on clients or patients and staff, and on resource allocation and quality, identifying and monitoring indicators of imbalance and identifying the people most sensitive to negative impacts by seeking frequent feedback. They also help in promoting the accountability of others by providing appropriate orientation in both breadth and depth to nurses in new roles or positions. This ensures the nurse has the tools and skills to succeed. Therefore, nurses should always understand their accountability to their decisions made in the line of duty.