Policy briefing

Enabling professionalism in practice

The latest policy and what it means for healthcare professionals.

The latest policy and what it means for healthcare professionals

Picture: Alamy

Essential facts

Helping nurses provide the best care possible is at the heart of new guidance on professionalism from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and chief nursing officers from across the UK.

It sets out what professionalism looks like in everyday practice, and how the values of the NMC Code should be at the centre of all nursing and midwifery practice.

While everyone recognises good professionalism when they see it, it can be difficult to define, the regulator says.

‘Being an inspiring role model working in the best interests of people in your care, regardless of what position you hold and where you deliver care, is what really brings practice and behaviour together in harmony,’ states the guidance, called Enabling Professionalism in Nursing and Midwifery Practice.

The guidance defines professionalism as autonomous, evidence-based decision making by members of an occupation who share the same values and education.

Person-centred outcomes

Professionalism ensures the consistent provision of safe, effective, person-centred outcomes that support people, and their families and carers, to achieve an optimal status of health and well-being. Nurses and midwives must demonstrate and embrace accountability for their actions.

The guidance also sets out responsibilities for employers to support professionalism in their staff. This includes encouraging nurses and midwives to hold leadership roles, providing them with regular supervision, a focus on reflective practice and enabling autonomous and innovative practice.  Employers must provide appropriate staffing with the right skill mix and funding for training.

The framework is aimed at promoting professionalism in nursing and midwifery by focusing on the NMC Code and how it is used in revalidation.

The Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust public inquiry, published in 2013 after a decline in standards was seen at the struggling Stafford Hospital, identifies a need for professional development in nursing.

Expert comment


Wendy Preston is RCN head of nursing practice

‘This is a concise and practical document containing useful information for all nurses and should help shape the direction of nursing. It makes clear that professionalism is about being accountable for your actions and knowing your own competence.

‘For managers, it could be a useful starting point for conversations with staff because it offers good examples of professionalism and how to improve if the nurse is struggling in these areas.

‘It brings up important issues that managers may wish to discuss with staff, such as being an advocate for patients, and the importance of building resilience and of acting autonomously.

‘The document could also be a way of praising someone by showing where their professionalism is excellent. It sets out the foundation of nursing.’

Implications for nurses

The guidance is clear that nurses have specific responsibilities when it comes to maintaining professionalism. Among these are learning and developing continuously, being a role model for others, raising safety issues, understanding referral pathways, and delegating appropriately and safely.

Supporting colleagues and students, providing meaningful feedback and celebrating success are also important. Registrants should make the most of the learning opportunities presented by revalidation and appraisal systems, and use up-to-date evidence in their practice.

Nurses must also work with other professionals, seek support and connections from professional bodies and organisations, and develop themselves and others to lead strategically. Treating people with a positive regard, and demonstrating positive behaviours and attitudes towards diversity, are also part of professionalism.


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