Policy briefing

Promoting professionalism

Read our policy briefing on new guidance on professionalism from the Nursing and Midwifery Council and chief nursing officers from across the UK.

Read our policy briefing on new guidance on professionalism from the Nursing and Midwifery Council and chief nursing officers from across the UK

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The framework aims to promote professionalism by focusing on the code.
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 Code should be at the centre of all nursing and midwifery practice.

While everyone knows what good professionalism is when they see it, it can be hard 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,’ says the document, called Enabling professionalism in nursing and midwifery practice.

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

‘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’

Enabling professionalism in nursing and midwifery practice

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 wellbeing. Professional 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 nurses and midwives holding leadership roles, regular supervision, a focus on reflective practice, and encouraging autonomous and innovative practice. Employers must also provide appropriate staffing with the right skill mix and funding for training.

The framework aims to promote professionalism in nursing and midwifery through focusing on the code and how it is used in revalidation.

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

Implications for nurses

The guidance is clear that nurses have individual 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 learning opportunities presented by revalidation and appraisal systems, and use up-to-date evidence in their practice.

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

Expert comment

wendyRCN head of nursing practice Wendy Preston: 

‘This is a very 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.

It is relevant to every nurse, whatever their level, as all nurses are responsible for leadership, role modelling, and evidence-based autonomous practice every day.

'With the review of pre-registration standards for education currently ongoing and the introduction of revalidation, this document sets out the foundation of nursing. Nurses are still the most trusted profession by the public, so nurses are seen as responsible, but this document is really acknowledging the professionalism of nursing.’


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