30 Examples of How to Demonstrate Professionalism in Nursing

Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

Whether you are a nursing student or a nurse with several years of experience, you know that professionalism is a significant trait all nurses should have. While nurses are referred to as healthcare professionals, many do not understand the concept of what true professionalism encompasses. Maybe you have asked yourself, "What is professionalism in nursing?” In this article, you will find information about nursing professionalism, including 30 examples of how to demonstrate professionalism in nursing. As you continue reading, keep in mind that each nurse is responsible for developing professional characteristics and implementing those characteristics into daily practice.

What is Professionalism in Nursing?

Professionalism in nursing refers to nursing behavior that reflects competence and skill. Demonstrating nursing professionalism involves providing high-quality patient care while upholding values of integrity, accountability, and respect.

Who Determines the Standards of Professionalism in Nursing?

The American Nurses Association developed standards of nursing care, providing guidelines for professional nursing performance and defining what it means to provide competent patient care. It is essential for nurses to understand the standards of professionalism in nursing. Nurses are obligated by law to carry out care in accordance with the same standards as other reasonably prudent nurses in similar situations.

10 Reasons Why Professionalism is So Important in Nursing

Professionalism in nursing is essential for several reasons and on many levels. This section looks at the top ten reasons why demonstrating nursing professionalism should be every nurse's goal.

1. Nursing professionalism supports growth and development, which benefits patients, nurses, and the healthcare industry.

2. Nurses who conduct themselves with professional attitudes and behaviors are instrumental in building strong interdisciplinary relationships. This results in better patient care, improved patient outcomes, and higher patient and employee satisfaction and retention rates.

3. Professionalism in nursing supports and promotes the highest standards of patient care, leading to successful health outcomes.

4. Professional nursing practices promote effective communication among healthcare team members.

5. When nurses conduct themselves with professionalism, patients feel more at ease, which helps strengthen nurse-patient relationships.

6. Professionalism in nursing helps promote positive reputations for the healthcare facilities and organizations that employ these nurses. A good public reputation attracts patients and other professionals, which is a win-win for everyone.

7. When nurse-patient relationships are strengthened, patients are more compliant, which results in improved health outcomes.

8. Nursing professionalism supports increased accountability among all practitioners. When healthcare practitioners are accountable to patients and one another, there is less risk of errors, and adverse events in patient care, and healthcare teams are stronger.

9. The presence of professional nursing practices creates more positive clinical environments. Nurses, doctors, healthcare team members, and patients work better together when the spirit of professionalism is present.

10. Nurses who act professionally follow organizational policies and procedures, adhere to best practices and implement measures to promote patient safety, which reduces the risk of legal ramifications associated with unprofessional conduct and increased healthcare costs.

What are the 7 Key Elements of Professionalism in Nursing?

There are several elements associated with professional nursing. The key elements of professionalism in nursing are demonstrated through ethical conduct and best nursing practices. The following is a list of key elements of professional nursing and explanations about their importance.

1. Leadership:

One of the key elements of professionalism in nursing is the ability to positively influence patients and peers by using strong leadership skills. By using nurse leadership skills, nurses can increase nurse competence which helps them carry out professional nursing practices.

2. Professional Values:

A professional nurse has values that reflect an understanding of the type of care needed by and given to patients. Professional values include characteristics such as compassion and caring, advocacy and altruism, respect for human dignity, safety, social justice, honesty and integrity, and accountability.

3. Professional Development:

Ongoing professional development is an essential component of quality patient care. It helps nurses maintain competence, improve skills, and is directly related to career advancement and enhancement.

4. Basic Care Competency:

Nurses can demonstrate professionalism in nursing by mastering essential nursing skills necessary for patient care. Using evidence-based practices is an excellent way to demonstrate the element of care competence, as it improves the quality of patient care and safety and contributes to better patient outcomes.

5. Altruism:

This key element in nursing professionalism is defined as an engagement in care toward another without expecting anything in return. Altruism is motivated by concern for others or by the values and goals associated with care instead of expectation of rewards. Professional nurses look for ways to demonstrate altruistic behavior and encourage that behavior in their peers.

6. Social Justice:

In healthcare, social justice relates to the delivery of safe, high-quality care given to all individuals. The most common example of social justice in nursing occurs when nurses act as patient advocates. Their roles revolve around providing competent, compassionate care and intervening on behalf of patients as needed.

7. Human Dignity:

Observing human dignity is essential for establishing therapeutic relationships between patients, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. According to the International Council of Nurses, respect for human dignity is inseparable from professional nursing. Respect for life and human dignity is not limited to a patient's race, age, culture, creed, sex, gender, nationality, social or health status.

How to Demonstrate Professionalism in Nursing?

It is not enough to understand the definition of professionalism in nursing. Nurses must learn to demonstrate professionalism in every aspect of their practices. The following are 30 examples of how you can demonstrate professionalism in nursing practice.

EXAMPLE #1: Learn Effective Communication

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

Nurses demonstrate effective communication using verbal and nonverbal communication skills. Some elements that contribute to effective communication include maintaining eye contact, being mindful of facial expressions, having relaxed body language, and a calm, assuring tone of voice.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Effective communication skills are essential in promoting professionalism in nursing. Strong verbal and nonverbal communication fosters therapeutic nurse-patient relationships, strengthens nurse-peer relationships, and helps nurses navigate complex situations more efficiently, contributing to improved patient outcomes.

EXAMPLE #2: Show Compassion

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

Compassion is characterized by showing sensitivity to another person's suffering and having a willingness to help that person to promote their well-being. Nurses can demonstrate compassion by showing genuine interest in what patients and their loved ones say, being patient, allowing patients time to process what is happening, and offering opportunities to ask questions.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Compassion in nursing is one of the key elements in building strong nurse-patient and interdisciplinary relationships. When nurses demonstrate compassion, they remain aware of the patient's situation and prioritize the patient's feelings, wants, and needs.

EXAMPLE #3: Participate in Interdisciplinary Collaboration

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

Demonstrating interdisciplinary collaboration takes a willingness to listen to peers and be open to ways of improving patient care. Nurses and other healthcare team members should work together to create relationships based on mutual trust and respect.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Interdisciplinary collaboration is an essential element for delivering safe, comprehensive, and therapeutic care. When nurses and other healthcare team members collaborate effectively, patients and the healthcare organization benefit. Interdisciplinary collaboration helps improve patient outcomes and reduces healthcare costs.

EXAMPLE #4: Be Accountable

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

There are several ways to demonstrate accountability as nurses. A few examples of demonstrating accountability include taking responsibility for your actions, following organizational policies and procedures, and working within the limits of your professional Scope of Practice.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Accountability is a key element of professionalism in nursing. It helps foster trusting relationships between patients, nurses, and team members, protects against the misuse of healthcare resources and promotes a good reputation for the nurse and the facilities where they work. When nurses practice accountability, employers view them as reliable, valuable assets to their teams.

EXAMPLE #5: Never Stop Learning

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

There are several ways to promote continued learning in nursing. For example, attending seminars and nursing conventions, taking continuing education classes, and participating in peer-conducted discussions are some excellent ways to stay involved in active learning and professional development.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Healthcare trends are in a constant state of change. To keep up and continue providing quality, professional care, nurses must commit to lifelong learning. Nurses who dedicate themselves to continued growth and development have access to the most recent studies and information necessary to help them provide safe, high-quality, effective patient care. The more knowledge nurses have, the greater their influence on positive patient outcomes.

EXAMPLE #6: Have a Positive Attitude

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

As rewarding as nursing is, some days can be quite challenging. Even the most upbeat nurses can experience days when having a positive attitude can be a struggle. A professional nurse understands the importance of exhibiting a positive attitude, even in the face of adversity, pain, or frustration. One of the best ways to demonstrate a positive attitude in nursing is to look at every situation as an opportunity to grow.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Having a positive attitude as a nurse helps improve the quality of work-life and helps influence the attitudes and outlook of patients and team members. Some studies indicate that having a positive attitude is associated with decreased emotional or mental distress or fatigue.

EXAMPLE #7: Provide High-Quality Patient Care

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

A nurse's level of professionalism is reflected in the quality of care they provide. Providing high-quality care involves using the best evidence-based practices available, promoting patient autonomy, and being supportive of the needs of patients, families, and healthcare team members.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Providing safe, high-quality patient care should be at the top of every nurse’s list of priorities. When patients receive quality care, patient outcomes are improved, and patient satisfaction rates increase. Additionally, high-quality patient care is associated with lower healthcare costs, which benefits patients, nurses, the profession, and healthcare organizations.

EXAMPLE #8: Dress the Part

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

Whether you work in a clinical setting providing direct patient care or have a management position in nursing, the way you dress speaks volumes about how professional you are. Depending on your position and the setting where you work, uniform or dress requirements may vary. No matter where you work, you can demonstrate professionalism in nursing by wearing appropriate uniforms or dress clothes. Make sure your clothes are clean, ironed, and match, and wear appropriate shoes. If you have long hair, ensure it does not obscure your vision. Make-up should be tasteful.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Looking professional influences how others view you. Nurses who present themselves well-kempt give an air of confidence, which helps ease patients and loved ones. It is also essential to keep in mind that the way nurses dress and act reflects upon their employers and organizations.

EXAMPLE #9: Be Ethical

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

Ethical behavior in nursing involves knowing the right way to act and being willing to put that knowledge into practice. Nurses can demonstrate ethical professionalism in nursing by implementing the basic principles of benevolence, nonmaleficence, accountability, fidelity, and veracity.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

It is vital for nurses to practice ethical behaviors for several reasons. When nurses act ethically, they are more likely to make decisions based on their values and the laws that govern their practices, which results in better judgment calls.

EXAMPLE #10: Practice Cultural Awareness

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

Cultural awareness or competence relates to the nurse’s ability to provide the best medical care possible to patients while demonstrating respect for the patient’s race, values, and beliefs. Cultural awareness involves putting forth efforts to understand the differences in patients and treat them with dignity and respect while honoring those differences.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Cultural awareness helps facilitate more effective communication between nurses, patients, and other members of the care team, which is a vital component of quality patient care. Demonstrating professionalism in nursing by practicing cultural awareness helps nurses relate more closely to patients, leading to therapeutic nurse-patient relationships, which positively impact patient outcomes.

EXAMPLE #11: Have a “Patients First” Mindset

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

Having the mindset of patients first means always acting in the best interest of your patients. Treat patients, their spouses, and loved ones with kindness, compassion, and respect. You can demonstrate professionalism in nursing by being willing to listen to concerns and advocate for the patient’s wishes, even if your opinion differs from theirs.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Patient-centered approaches in nursing are essential. The patient-first mindset means focusing on the patient's wants, needs, goals, and desires. When patients feel like healthcare providers value their wants and needs, they are more likely to take an active role in their care planning and have increased compliance rates.

EXAMPLE #12: Mentor Other Nurses

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

Mentoring in nursing involves several things. You can demonstrate mentorship in nursing by helping new nurses orient and acclimate to their new roles, offering support, and acting as a role model. Make yourself available to other nurses and take advantage of any opportunity to volunteer as a mentor and leader.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Mentoring promotes professional growth and best clinical practices for both the mentor and mentee. Nurse mentors encourage professional expertise, promote professional expertise, and advocate for patients and their team members. Nursing mentors are instrumental in developing strong teams of nurses equipped to provide high-quality patient care.

EXAMPLE #13: Practice Integrity

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

Integrity is one of the most important traits associated with professionalism in nursing. It is characterized by acting with fairness and honesty. Nurses practice integrity by adhering to strong moral values, valuing other people's time, and finding ways to do good for others.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Nurses who practice integrity are typically viewed as trustworthy and dependable, which are essential characteristics for someone caring for others. Nurses with integrity have positive attitudes and strong work ethic, inspiring others to do the same. When nurses act with integrity, the work environment is less stressful, impacting organizational productivity and promoting positive patient outcomes.

EXAMPLE #14: Be Detail-Oriented

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

Being detail-oriented is one of the most essential characteristics of professionalism in nursing. Attention to detail involves providing high-quality patient care based on evidence-based practices, focusing on every aspect of the patient and their situation. A few examples of how to demonstrate being detail-oriented include keeping patient charts updated with the most current information, double-checking work for accuracy, identifying mistakes or risks for error, and following the nursing care plan carefully.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

A professional nurse understands the importance of even the smallest details. Detail-oriented nurses are instrumental in identifying problems and risks to patient safety and wellness. Being detail-oriented in nursing also helps reduce the risk of errors and injury associated with patient care, which helps reduce healthcare costs.

EXAMPLE #15: Become a Critical-Thinker

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

Critical thinking in nursing involves using knowledge and experiences to identify actual or potential problems. Nurses use clinical thinking to identify risks, weigh evidence, draw conclusions, and make decisions about patient care. Nurses who think critically utilize core thinking skills to justify and carry out nursing actions based on evidence.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

A key characteristic of nursing professionalism is the ability to assess situations and apply critical thinking measures. Critical thinking is the process by which nurses gather information and try to determine the best solutions.

EXAMPLE #16: Help Resolve Conflicts

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

Being at the center of a conflict is not the average person's goal. However, sometimes it is inevitable. One way to demonstrate professionalism in nursing is to be aware of potential risks of conflict and implement measures to resolve them quickly. Engage in dialogue with others and offer to facilitate a safe environment for communication.

Nurse leaders should promote opportunities for education and training related to team-building and effective communication, which can improve interprofessional relationships and reduce the risk of conflicts.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Having the skill to resolve conflicts helps reduce stress in the workplace, creating a positive environment for patients and staff. When nurses demonstrate effective conflict resolution skills, they have higher job satisfaction rates and can develop stronger teams. Additionally, nurses skilled at effectively resolving conflict are excellent support systems for patients and family members navigating through difficult decisions about healthcare.

EXAMPLE #17: Be Adaptable

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

Adaptability is defined as the quality of being able to adjust to new conditions or modify activities based on a new purpose. Nurses can demonstrate adaptability by integrating their patients' cultural beliefs and values into their care, even if those beliefs differ from the nurse's.

Patients may have sudden or unexpected changes in their status requiring rapid responses from the nurse. In this case, a nurse must assess the situation and act according to the most urgent needs. Other ways to demonstrate adaptability in nursing include being willing to work in a new area to help ease the burden of a shortage of workers, rearranging tasks according to changes in patient statuses, and accepting changes as opportunities for growth instead of viewing them as challenges.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Changes in technology, increased patient load, and nursing shortages are just a few things that contribute to rapid changes in any given day in nursing. Adaptability is an essential characteristic of professionalism in nursing, reflecting the nurse’s ability to adjust based on immediate needs.

EXAMPLE #18: Lead by Example

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

Anyone can demonstrate leadership qualities, whether they have a leadership position or not. Being conscientious about your work, having a positive attitude, staying up-to-date with current trends in nursing and relevant research, and advocating for patients are just a few ways nurses can lead by example.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

All nurses should understand the importance of professionalism in nursing, and leading by example is an excellent way to show professionalism. The strongest, most effective leaders develop and demonstrate leadership qualities long before they earn the title of a leader.

Nurses who pride themselves on their work, care about patients and lead by example strengthen the integration of effective, safe, high-quality patient care. Responsible, leadership-minded nurses contribute to positive work environments and improved patient experiences and outcomes.

EXAMPLE #19: Make Yourself a Priority by Practicing Self-Care

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

It is essential to understand that self-care is not selfish. On the contrary, it is an essential part of maintaining balance in your life, which benefits you, your patients, and your peers.

Examples of ways to demonstrate self-care include eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, getting plenty of rest and practice good personal and environmental hygiene. Make time to do things that you enjoy. Socialize with friends and family and allow yourself time to relax and recharge.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Nursing is known as a selfless career choice. Although nurses care for others, that does not mean you should care for everyone but yourself. Engaging in self-care has been proven to reduce or eliminate depression and anxiety, reduce stress, minimize anger and frustration, and improve concentration and critical-thinking skills.

EXAMPLE #20: Show Respect and Appreciation to Your Co-workers

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

Nursing is a rewarding profession. Still, it is not without stressful days and moments when even the most skilled nurses feel overwhelmed or underappreciated. A professional nurse understands the importance of making others feel valued. You can show respect and appreciation to your co-workers by implementing simple everyday tactics. For example, listen to what your co-workers have to say, value their time, and compliment them for a job well done.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

You do not have to have a leadership position to show appreciation or respect. In fact, anyone can demonstrate nursing professionalism by recognizing the important contributions others make. When you take the time to show respect and appreciation to your peers, it helps boost team morale and creates a positive work environment. Nurses who feel valued and appreciated tend to have a better attitude about work and put forth greater effort in their work, which benefits the team, healthcare organization, and patients.

EXAMPLE #21: Be a Faithful Patient Advocate

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

Being an advocate for patients involves working on behalf of patients with their best interests in mind. Nurses advocate for patients by speaking up for them when patients have questions or concerns, working to resolve issues with patient care, and working with the patient, family, and interdisciplinary team to ensure quality, safe care is delivered, and patient outcomes are improved.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Patient advocacy is a critical aspect of professionalism in nursing. Nurse advocates help minimize communication gaps between patients and providers, educate patients, and promote patient safety and well-being. When patients feel supported, they become more trusting and compliant with care plans, which leads to better patient outcomes.

EXAMPLE #22: Show Up for Work

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

This one is simple. If you're scheduled to work, go to work. When you get to work, perform your assigned duties to the best of your ability with the highest-quality nursing care you can provide.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Everyone has a bad day from time to time or wants a day off to go to appointments or have some personal time. While that is completely normal, it is not appropriate to call in sick if you are not sick or to simply not show up for work. Your presence at work means you support your patients and your team.

If nurses fail to be responsible and go to work when scheduled, it creates a strain on the team because other nurses may need to take on some of your assignments. Additionally, the quality of patient care is impacted as other nurses try to compensate for your absence, which leads to an increased risk of medication and treatment errors.

EXAMPLE #23: Promote Safe Nursing Practices

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

Promoting safe practices is an excellent way to demonstrate professionalism in nursing. Nurses can promote safe nursing practices by following the nursing process, administering medications appropriately, utilizing effective communication techniques, and following organizational policies and procedures.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Patient safety is paramount to delivering quality patient care. Safe nursing practices aim to reduce the risks, errors, and harm to patients in the provision of nursing care. When safe nursing practices are implemented, patient outcomes improve, and healthcare costs are reduced.

EXAMPLE #24: Pursue Personal Growth and Development

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

The first step in pursuing personal growth and development is to set goals. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant to you personally, and timely. Surround yourself with like-minded people who support your endeavors to grow. Practice gratitude and self-compassion, as evidence suggests, these help increase one’s motivation for self-improvement.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Pursuing personal growth and development is a way of assessing one's qualities, skills, potential, and goals. Nurses spend a lot of time caring for others, encouraging others to pursue their hopes and dreams, and implementing measures to help others realize their potential.

It is important for nurses to have a balance between their personal and professional lives. Pursuing personal growth and development helps nurses identify things that are important to them and creates a sense of wholeness where personal and professional wants and needs are addressed separately but benefit the nurse equally.

EXAMPLE #25: Be Willing to Show Empathy

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

Showing empathy means you can relate to another's feelings on a deep level. Nurses can demonstrate empathy by trying to see, understand, and share other's viewpoints and opinions without judgment.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Empathy helps nursing build trusting relationships with patients and their loved ones by focusing on their feelings and point of view. Empathy helps strengthen therapeutic communication, giving nurses a deeper understanding of what patients are experiencing and how they are coping. Showing empathy is an essential step in demonstrating professionalism in nursing.

EXAMPLE #26: Be Sympathetic to Others

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

The ability to demonstrate sympathy is another example of professionalism in nursing. Offering comfort during difficult times is one way to show sympathy. For example, patting someone on their shoulder, holding their hand, or offering a hug (when appropriate) lets the other person know you are aware that they are hurting or in need of support. If someone experiences the loss of a loved one, you may say, "I know this is a difficult time for you. Please know I am here if you need anything."

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Although similar, empathy and sympathy are not the same. Being sympathetic means you understand what someone else is feeling. Unlike empathy, sympathy is not related to an emotional response you feel personally, but it is more of an awareness of what the other person is going through.

EXAMPLE #27: Practice Resilience

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

Nurses can build and demonstrate resilience by replacing negative thoughts with positive ones, maintaining a supportive network of colleagues, and being flexible when change is necessary. Develop a "can-do" attitude to help you identify problems and address them appropriately.

Being resilient also means you pay attention to your personal needs. Set goals for how to deal with problems to keep yourself focused. Lastly, remember there are several problems that occur in a nurse's daily work that are simply out of their control. So, don't be too hard on yourself.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Resilience is one's ability to remain focused and thrive in demanding situations. Resilience is essential to nursing professionalism as it contributes to a nurse's sense of self-control, gives a sense of purpose, contributes to better self-esteem, and improves nurse-patient and interprofessional relationships.

EXAMPLE #28: Exercise Your Right to Practice Autonomously

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

Autonomous nursing actions include measures such as changing the position of a patient’s bed to facilitate easier breathing, administering PRN medications, checking vital signs when there appears to be a change in the patient’s status, and delegating tasks to appropriate personnel.

Other examples of autonomy in nursing include interpreting medical results, managing equipment, and making decisions in emergency health situations, such as providing CPR to an unresponsive patient.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Autonomy refers to a nurse's ability to utilize critical thinking and decision-making skills independently and use those skills to develop action plans related to patient care. Nursing autonomy positively impacts the work environment, and quality of care patients receive. When nurses practice autonomously, job and patient satisfaction rates are higher, there is less turnover of nursing staff, and patient health outcomes improve.

EXAMPLE #29: Be Confident in Your Abilities

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

Confidence is the belief in one's abilities to accomplish a task or goal. Nurses can demonstrate confidence by approaching work with excitement and curiosity. Showing an interest in work and having a good attitude about assignments also builds others' confidence in you.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Increased confidence leads to thoughtful leadership and strong clinical practice. Confident nurses are instrumental in building trusting relationships with patients, which helps improve communication, increases compliance, creates better patient experiences, and leads to improved health outcomes.

EXAMPLE #30: Be Willing to Accept Constructive Criticism and Advice

How to Demonstrate it in Nursing Practice:

There is a difference between belittling someone and offering constructive criticism. While you do not have to tolerate bullying or belittling, a willingness to accept constructive criticism and professional advice is a great way to demonstrate professionalism in nursing.

Nurses can demonstrate this by being attentive to more experienced nurses and nurse leaders. Another way to demonstrate this example of professionalism in nursing is to ask questions and show an interest in learning ways to improve your skills and strengthen your professional role.

Why is it Important in Nursing:

Let's be honest; no one likes the idea of being wrong or not knowing as much as they think they do, but we all can learn from others. A professional nurse is willing to listen to other, more experienced nurses and leaders to find ways to grow professionally.

Constructive criticism helps us recognize ways to improve and work smarter, which benefits patients, nurses, and employers. A willingness to learn from others takes the focus off oneself and redirects it to the most important person, the patient. Listening to advice and implementing measures for improvement helps nurses become stronger, more reliable members of the healthcare team.

What are Some Examples of Unprofessionalism in Nursing?

Nursing professionalism affects patients, their loved ones, nurses, team members, and healthcare organizations. Nurses must understand the difference between professionalism and unprofessionalism in nursing. We have discussed examples of professionalism in nursing and how to demonstrate them. The following are 10 examples of unprofessional conduct in nursing practice.

1. Participating in or Causing Conflict Among Team Members:

Anyone can stir conflict or strife. It takes someone with professional integrity to avoid that kind of behavior.

2. Missing Work Unnecessarily:

Employers depend on nurses to be at work when scheduled. When nurses call in sick or take time off unnecessarily, it impacts the workflow of their units. Not showing up for work or missing too much work is a perfect example of unprofessional nursing behavior.

3. Not Protecting Patient Privacy and Confidentiality:

Patients have a legal right to privacy and confidentiality. Nurses are obligated to protect those patient rights, and failure to do so is unprofessional and totally unacceptable.

4. Taking Credit for Someone Else’s Work:

Nothing is more frustrating than working hard and someone else getting credit for your efforts. Taking credit for work you did not do is unprofessional. It can lead to bitterness and anger between co-workers and create a poor work environment.

5. Avoiding Responsibilities:

Nurses each have designated responsibilities during their shifts. It takes a team effort to provide quality patient care. When nurses avoid assigned responsibilities, it can lead to errors in care and jeopardize patient safety.

6. Providing Misleading or False Information:

If a patient receives unsettling news or is having a bad day, or perhaps has no family with them, it can feel overwhelming. It is normal for nurses to want to comfort patients. Just remember to always be honest. Providing misleading or false information, even with good intentions, is unprofessional.

7. Abandoning Patient Care:

Not only is abandoning patient care unprofessional, but it is also illegal. It can result in lawsuits and loss of licensure.

8. Accepting an Unsafe Patient Assignment:

According to the American Nurses Association, nurses have a "professional right to accept, reject, or object to in writing any patient assignment that puts themselves or patients at serious risk for harm." Not only do nurses have a right to refuse unsafe assignments, but they also have the right to decline an assignment that is unsafe.

9. Failure to Maintain Professional Boundaries with Clients or Their Families:

Nurses must establish and maintain professional boundaries between themselves and their patients. When professional boundaries are absent or nurses fail to enforce them, it can cause problems with the nurse-patient relationship, negatively impact patient care, and lead to workplace tension.

10. Using Unsafe Practices:

There are several examples of unsafe nursing practices, including performing procedures the nurse is not trained to perform and failing to maintain medical records and documents. The consequences of unsafe nursing practices can have far-reaching effects on patients, nurses, and the profession.

Consequences of Unprofessional Conduct in Nursing

It is the responsibility of every nurse to work within their scope of practice and promote safe, professional patient care. A lack of professionalism in nursing can have severe consequences for patients, nurses, healthcare organizations, and the nursing profession. Some consequences of unprofessional nursing conduct include the following.

1. Increased Absenteeism:

When unprofessional conduct becomes commonplace, it is usually accompanied by decreased dedication to the job, which means nursing absences increase. This is especially troubling because there is a nationwide shortage of nurses affecting healthcare organizations everywhere. When nurses do not show up for work, it leaves other nurses overworked, which increases the chances of errors in care.

2. Hostility Among Staff:

The old saying, "One bad apple spoils the bunch," is an appropriate analogy for how unprofessional conflict affects others. It only takes one nurse acting unprofessionally to create tension and possible hostility within the healthcare team. Unfortunately, when ill feelings and tempers flare toward co-workers, it can negatively impact patient care and team morale.

3. Disciplinary Action:

Employers expect nurses to conduct themselves with high levels of professionalism, as they represent not only themselves but the organization and the nursing profession. Nurses who make a habit of unprofessional conduct could find themselves the subject of disciplinary action. Disciplinary action may include measures such as counseling, a written reprimand, suspension, or loss of the job.

4. Loss of License:

While not all unprofessional conduct in nursing leads to the loss of a nurse's license, it could be possible, especially if the behavior is not stopped or results in patient harm. For example, in some states, nurses found to be using illegal drugs or abusing prescription medications may be referred to a substance abuse program and need to submit to random drug tests to maintain licensure. If the behavior continues, the State Board of Nursing may find the nurse is a danger to herself or others and unsafe to practice nursing and revoke the nursing license.

5. Damaged Professional Reputation:

Poor professional behavior can lead to negative feedback from patients, peers, and employers. If nurses act unprofessionally and make no effort to improve and demonstrate professionalism, it can harm their professional reputation. When this occurs, it can be difficult to find a new job or be offered better positions in a current job.

5 Most-Common Challenges to Professionalism in Nursing Practice and How to Overcome Them

There are several things that cause challenges to nursing professionalism, and every nurse must acknowledge and find ways to overcome them. The following are examples of five of the most common challenges to professionalism in nursing and tips on how to deal with them.

CHALLENGE #1: Maintaining Positive Relationships with Unprofessional Peers

What is it:

At some point, most people come across a co-worker whose values and standards for professional behavior are not the same. One of the biggest challenges associated with nursing professionalism occurs when well-meaning professional nurses must work with nurses who demonstrate unprofessional behavior.

How to Overcome:

It is necessary to understand you cannot change others. You can overcome this challenge by maintaining a positive, strong mindset, doing your job to the best of your ability, and remembering not to take their behavior personally. If the other person's behavior causes concern for patient or staff safety, or if you feel it is something that needs to be addressed, communicate with your nursing supervisor and allow them to intervene.

CHALLENGE #2: Knowing Where to Draw the Line with Nurse-Patient Relationships

What is it:

Developing therapeutic relationships with patients and their loved ones is an essential part of nursing. Therapeutic relationships promote love and respect and give patients a sense of dignity and worth. Nurses often see patients in their most vulnerable states and desire to ease their suffering. While showing compassion and being a confidant are excellent ways to build solid nurse-patient relationships, it is equally important to know how to demonstrate professionalism as a nurse by establishing healthy boundaries with patients and their loved ones.

How to Overcome:

Nurses can establish professional boundaries with patients and their loved ones by following a few guidelines. First, it is never appropriate to make or condone sexual advances. Be mindful of your patient's mental status and understanding of their own behavior, and carefully consider your reactions, so there is no misunderstanding about your intentions. Do not disclose personal information such as where you live or your personal phone number, and avoid accepting friend requests from patients on social media platforms. Even if an individual is no longer your patient, it is crucial to consider the ethical ramifications of pursuing a relationship with them. If you ever feel a situation is out of hand or become uncomfortable because you feel a patient does not respect the boundaries you have established, you may need to discuss the situation with a nursing supervisor.

CHALLENGE #3: Dealing with Rude Patients

What is it:

As if long hours, heavy patient loads, and the stress of caring for patients were not enough, there are times when patients can be quite rude. It can be enough to make some nurses question if what they are doing really matters. It does!

How to Overcome:

When others lash out or act rudely toward us, it is natural to want to respond the same way. However, a professional nurse will consider the situation carefully and try to understand the reason for the patient's behavior. While the patient's actions may challenge your professionalism, it is possible to maintain a sense of calm and work through the situation appropriately. Instead of accusing the patient of being rude, try saying something like, "I understand you must be worried. Is there anything you would like to talk about or anything I can do to help you?" Simple acts of kindness can change a person's outlook and attitude. Keep in mind that your patient may be scared, in pain, or even be angry because he feels helpless. Be patient, show compassion, and overcome.

CHALLENGE #4: Unprofessional Work Environment

What is it:

When professionalism is undervalued within an organization, employees' attitudes are typically negative. A professional work environment in nursing establishes and supports respect for patients, nurses, team members, and leadership.

How to Overcome:

Although it may seem difficult at times, it is possible to be a positive influence in an unprofessional work environment and help promote positive changes. Avoid inappropriate conversations with co-workers. Treat everyone with respect. Follow your organization's policies and procedures. When conflicts arise, talk to the appropriate leader and ask for help resolving any issues. Believe it or not, even in the worst environments, one or two people acting professionally can significantly impact others and help bring about change.

CHALLENGE #5: Emotionally Charged Situations

What is it:

Several factors impact emotions in the workplace. For example, if a catastrophic event occurs and the emergency department is overflowing with patients, nurses can feel stressed. Patients may become frustrated if wait times are extended. The longer a situation continues, the more emotions run rampant. When faced with highly stressful or emotional situations, it can be challenging to maintain a professional attitude.

How to Overcome:

The first step in overcoming the challenge of highly emotional situations is to calm yourself. Patients typically respond to the attitudes and behaviors nurses exhibit. Therefore, nurses must lead by example and try to create a sense of order and calm. Some situations may be more difficult than others, but it is possible. Utilize the strengths of your team and encourage each person to do their part. Comfort patients and let them know their well-being is your priority.

5 Tips to Enhance Professionalism With Patients in Nursing Practice

The way nurses interact with patients is a direct reflection of the level of professionalism in nursing they have. Being professional when dealing with patients can positively influence the nurse-patient relationship and promote patient compliance, which helps improve patient outcomes. Here are a few tips on how to enhance professionalism with patients in nursing practice.

1. Make patient care a priority.

A professional nurse considers patient needs and makes meeting those needs a priority.

2. Take time to hear what your patient needs to say.

Nursing is about more than giving medications or changing bandages. Nursing means being "present." If you want to enhance your level of professionalism with patients, listen to them. Listen and then act, if necessary, to help resolve problems and meet their needs.

3. Speak up on your patient’s behalf.

One of the most important ways to demonstrate professionalism in nursing is to advocate for patients. For some patients, the nurse may be the only person who speaks up for them. When your act as a patient advocate, you are exercising professional behavior becoming of a nurse.

4. Protect your patient’s privacy.

Nurses have access to vital patient information, and it is the patient’s right to have that information protected. Nurses demonstrate enhanced professionalism by protecting patient privacy.

5. Demonstrate high standards of care.

The quality of care nurses provide directly reflects their level of professionalism. When nurses use best practices and provide high-quality patient care aligned with professional standards, it helps patients feel confident about the care they receive and promotes patient satisfaction and retention.

5 Tips to Enhance Professionalism With Co-workers in Nursing Practice

Professionalism in nursing should be practiced within nursing and interdisciplinary relationships. A few steps you can take to enhance professionalism with your co-workers include the following.

1. Be honest with yourself.

Nursing is a wonderful career, but it can also be stressful, leave you tired, and make you feel like there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish your work. Professionalism in nursing requires nurses to take a serious look at themselves and be honest about what works and what does not. Being honest about your feelings and what you are experiencing allows your co-workers to see you as an individual, not just another scrub suit walking the hospital floor.

2. Encourage and participate in team collaboration.

Collaborating with other nurses is an excellent way to demonstrate your knowledge and skills. When you collaborate with your team, it creates opportunities to learn about and develop skills and develop an attitude of professionalism.

3. Recognize the accomplishments and contributions of your co-workers.

Nothing screams professionalism as much as allowing someone else to be in the spotlight while you cheer from the crowd. Compliment your team members and encourage them in their personal and professional pursuits.

4. Be accountable to your team members.

Nursing teams count on one another to be available and perform their best. Professional nurses understand the importance of accountability and appreciate input from others.

5. Invite co-workers to join professional nursing associations with you.

Professional nursing associations, like the American Nurses Association, offer a wealth of information and educational opportunities for nurses in every area of healthcare. If you join with your co-workers, you can share experiences, go to conferences, and learn together.

BONUS! Useful Resources to Learn More About Professionalism in Nursing

Nurses have access to unlimited resources and tools to help them learn and strengthen skills. From websites, blogs, YouTube videos, podcasts, and books, information is literally at your fingertips. Here are a few examples of useful resources to help you learn more about professionalism in nursing.


American Nurse Journal is the official journal of the American Nurses Association. The ANJ offers several resources for nurses to learn and grow professionally, like the article Nursing Professionalism Begins with You.

American Academy of Nursing serves nurses by offering insight on advancing health policy and practices through synthesis and dissemination of nursing knowledge.

YouTube Videos

Professionalism in Nursing: This YouTube video is offered by Community Medical Center nurses educating nursing students and the public about the professional qualities needed to become a community health nurse.

How to Act Like a Healthcare Professional: KeithRN, host of this YouTube video, discusses practical guidelines to promote a culture of change and professionalism in nursing.


SHIFT Talk podcasts offer insight into nursing challenges. The podcast includes topics such as professional development, nurse-patient relationships, and health equity.

The Nurse Keith Show is a weekly podcast that provides career advice and inspiration for nurses. This podcast provides coaching for nurses to help them find a balance between their professional and personal lives.


Nursing and Multi-Professional Practice: This book offers an introduction to and foundation for interprofessional practice. It focuses on helping nurses, and nursing students understand their role in the healthcare industry and how to demonstrate professional conduct.

Notes on Nursing: What It Is, and What It Is Not: In this book, find insights from Florence Nightingale, the inventor of modern nursing. Notes on Nursing is often described as the profession's first body of knowledge and a must-read for every nurse.

My Final Thoughts

Throughout this article, we have discussed several key elements of nursing professionalism to answer the question, “What is professionalism in nursing?” By implementing the 30 examples of how to demonstrate professionalism in nursing in this article, nurses can take professionalism to a new level, impacting patients, nursing, and the profession positively.

Frequently Asked Questions Answered by Our Expert

1. Does Nursing Require A Higher Level Of Professionalism Compared To Other Healthcare Careers?

All healthcare careers should demonstrate high levels of professionalism. While nursing may not require a higher level of professionalism, the approach to professionalism in nursing tends to be more personal and is patient-centered.

2. What Are Professional Boundaries In Nursing?

Professional boundaries in nursing are boundaries or limits between a patient's vulnerability ad a nurse's power or authority. Nurses need to have clear professional boundaries to protect patients and themselves.

3. Why Nurses Should Set Boundaries To Maintain Professionalism In Nursing?

Setting boundaries to maintain professionalism in nursing helps protect vulnerable patients and reduce the risk of adverse consequences associated with inappropriate nurse-patient relationships.

4. What Is Professional Presence In Nursing?

Professional presence in nursing is the nurse's demonstration of confidence, integrity, respect, passion, empathy, and optimism per established guidelines and codes of professional nursing ethics.

5. What Is Professional Misconduct In Nursing?

Professional misconduct in nursing is the failure of a licensed nurse to meet the expected standards of safe practices. Examples include refusing to provide patient care, acts of negligence, and incompetence.

6. What Is Personal And Professional Development In Nursing?

Professional development in nursing is a specialized nursing practice that facilitates the professional growth and role development of nurses. Personal development in nursing is any activity that develops a nurse's abilities and potential, facilitates employability, and enhances the quality of the nurse's life.

7. What Is Professional Caring In Nursing?

Professional care in nursing is the act of providing high-quality, efficient patient care while upholding the values of respect, integrity, and accountability.

8. What Is Professional Communication In Nursing?

Professional communication in nursing involves any verbal, nonverbal, visual, or digital communication between nurses, patients, families, physicians, or other colleagues within the context of work.

9. What Is Professional Competence In Nursing?

Professional competence in nursing combines knowledge, skills, values, abilities, and attitudes that support effective nursing care and promote positive patient outcomes.

10. What Is Professional Advocacy In Nursing?

Professional advocacy in nursing is any act whereby nurses work to preserve human dignity, provide freedom from pain and suffering, and act on behalf of their patients and peers.

11.What Is Professional Accountability In Nursing?

Professional accountability in nursing is defined by the American Nursing Association’s Code of Ethics as “being answerable to oneself and others for one’s own actions.”

12.What Is Professional Socialization In Nursing?

Professional socialization in nursing is the procs of acquiring the skills and knowledge necessary to achieve a professional role within the professional norms of that role while upholding its values.

13.How Does Professionalism In Nursing Influence Health Policy?

Professionalism in nursing is instrumental in influencing health policy. A professional nurse's influence helps promote and protect the quality of patient care by providing access to opportunities for growth, and development and supporting necessary changes in healthcare delivery.

14.How Complaining In The Nursing Profession Hurts Professionalism?

A professional nurse seeks to find the positive in even the most difficult situations. Complaining within or about the nursing profession can create a negative opinion about the profession for others. It is vital for nurses to understand which problems should be discussed and with whom instead of making a spectacle of issues that could otherwise be easily resolved.

15.How Should Professionalism Be Evaluated In Nursing?

Professionalism in nursing should be evaluated through independent latent variables such as peer reviews, clinical competence, and face-to-face interviews.

16.How Do Nursing Schools Teach Professionalism?

Nursing schools teach professionalism by using different methods. Classroom lectures about proper nursing conduct and effective communication are the first step in teaching professionalism. Nursing schools also use laboratory intensives and clinical experiences to teach students to apply professional behaviors in practice.

17.What Are The Top 3 Professional Goals Every Nursing Student Should Aim For?

The top three professional goals all nursing students should aim to achieve are enhanced communication with patients and peers, strengthened critical thinking skills, and organizational skills.

Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).