Career advice

Upholding your profession’s reputation – even after your shift ends

Nurses are expected to maintain certain standards – so what does that mean in your down time?
Stock image of off duty nurses socialising and drinking alcohol

Nurses are expected to maintain certain standards so what does that mean in your down time?

I recently read a news report about a teacher who was banned from the profession after a pupil filmed him appearing drunk in a public place, wearing only his boxer shorts and trainers.

Although it may be tempting to laugh at this outrageous scenario, the teachers actions had serious consequences for his career; a General Teaching Council for Scotland disciplinary panel found he had breached the teachers code of conduct and was unfit to teach.

Is a nurse still a nurse outside of their workplace?

Although the teacher was not at work when this incident occurred, it still affected

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Nurses are expected to maintain certain standards – so what does that mean in your down time?

I recently read a news report about a teacher who was banned from the profession after a pupil filmed him appearing drunk in a public place, wearing only his boxer shorts and trainers.

Although it may be tempting to laugh at this outrageous scenario, the teacher’s actions had serious consequences for his career; a General Teaching Council for Scotland disciplinary panel found he had breached the teacher’s code of conduct and was unfit to teach.

Is a nurse still a nurse outside of their workplace?

Although the teacher was not at work when this incident occurred, it still affected his job. This got me thinking about nursing and how, in the eyes of the public, a nurse is always a nurse.

As a nurse, if you reveal your profession in a social situation, it is often met with a favourable response. But this can develop into unwanted attentions, such as being expected to solve someone’s medical woes or be a shoulder to cry on.

Then there is the expectation that, as a nurse, you will always behave in a way befitting of the profession.

What do the NMC’s expectations mean in real life?

Under the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) code, as a nurse you must ‘uphold the reputation of your profession at all times’.

Furthermore, the NMC standards of proficiency for registered nurses state that, at the point of registration, the registered nurse will be able to ‘act as an ambassador, upholding the reputation of their profession and promoting public confidence in nursing.’

But what do these statements mean in reality? It’s easy to focus on how you behave in the workplace, as this is where you build direct relationships with patients, their relatives and carers. They need to feel safe in your care and have faith that you will act in their best interests at all times.

Nurses need to switch off from work pressures

But what happens when your shift ends? How can you balance the need to switch off from work pressures with your professional duty as a nurse?

With nurses under increasing pressure, building resilience and taking care of your own health and well-being is vital. To do this, you must make time for you, and the last thing you need is to be worrying about being judged for how you spend your precious downtime.

Each of us has our own values and standards for what we deem acceptable behaviour, which may change over time. But there are lines that, once crossed, could see your fitness to practise questioned. 

    What is acceptable behaviour for off-duty nurses?

    NMC fitness to practise panels investigate serious concerns about nurses or midwives, including actions that negatively affect public confidence in the nursing and midwifery professions.

    Beyond staying within the limits of the law, there is no simple checklist of what you can and cannot do, but there are spectrums of acceptable behaviour, for example:

    Disorderly behaviour

    Many of us have been on nights out where we may have said or done things we regretted the next morning. This is not a crime and the NMC are not going to police your every move, but certain actions can be a risk to your personal and professional integrity. 

    Social media

    Social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, are a great way of networking and keeping up to date with clinical practice. They can also help you switch off from ‘real life’. But you must be mindful of what you post and what you comment on, share, or ‘like’. Posting about incidents at work can breach professional boundaries, so as well as being mindful of patient confidentiality, a simple rule to follow is to always be respectful and kind to others. As with verbal communication, bullying, harassment or discrimination online is unacceptable.

     

    Reflection can be useful outside of the workplace too

    Nurses are also expected to engage in reflective practice, and required to do so as part of the revalidation process. This is a chance to learn from previous actions and behaviours so any necessary changes can be made. 

    Of course, self-awareness can be useful in your personal life too, helping you balance the overall responsibility that comes with being a registered nurse.


    Mandy Day-Calder is a life/health coach with a nursing background. She runs a healthcare training company

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