The term ‘professionalism’ is a constant feature of nursing discourse, but the implications of its use are not often spelled out.

This short book focuses largely on the application of professionalism to social work, but much of it is equally applicable to nursing.

After reviewing the range of uses of the term, the authors conclude that a simple and clear-cut definition of professionalism is impossible.

A chapter on social change highlights the decline in deference towards authority figures, who possessed special knowledge and skill to which wider society lacked access. The internet means that patients and clients often now have access to the same information sources as the professionals they come into contact with.

Fragmentation of the labour market also means that professional roles are subject to constant change. This has led some to make the case for a ‘new professionalism’.

While stressing that a reflective approach to professionalism is desirable in the current context of increasing managerialism, the authors are fully aware that it can mask issues of power and control over people at vulnerable times in their lives.

They cover in-depth the theoretical dimensions of the topic – with an extensive bibliography of classic and recent publications – and provide examples drawn from practice, including health visiting and paediatric oncology nursing, to illustrate their arguments.

This article is for subscribers only