Defining the Nursing Profession

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Nursing: Defining the Profession

The definition of nursing has evolved since the introduction of the definition by the American Nurses Association in 1980. In that year, the ANA, in their Social Policy Statement, published their official definition of nursing. According to the American Nurses Association, "nursing is the diagnosis and treatment of human responses to actual and potential health problems" (1980). This definition has been massaged since 1980 and the most recent Social Policy Statement still uses the basic concepts as above, but with expanded explanations. It defines nursing as:

Nursing is the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and
abilities, prevention of illness and injury, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response, and advocacy
in the care of individuals, families, communities, and populations (ANA, 2003).
The American Nurses Association’s definition is an example of the discipline describing the domain of nursing, which is to protect, promote, optimize, and alleviate suffering, which therefore defines the profession of nursing. The International Council of Nursing defines nursing as:

Nursing encompasses autonomous and collaborative care of individuals
of all ages, families, groups, and communities, sick or well and in all settings.
Nursing includes the promotion of health, prevention of illness, and the care
of ill, disabled, and dying people. Advocacy, promotion of a safe environment,
research, participation in shaping health policy and in patient and health
systems management, and education are also key nursing roles (INC, 2005).
Although the definitions provided by the American Nurses Association and the International Council of Nursing are exceptional ones they are only two definitions out of many. The nursing profession is very difficult to define in straight lines and absolute parameters. As a profession nursing is many things to many people. The following pages will give you another definition of nursing. It explains why nursing is considered a profession, its mission, and how caring fits into the nursing concept.

This definition of nursing is expressed in the form of a core supported by five defining characteristics. It is important to recognize that nursing is the totality. While some parts of the definition are shared with other health care professions, the uniqueness of nursing lies in their combination. The definition takes in account the great diversity of nursing, which includes the care of people who are healthy as well as those who are sick, and of groups of people as well as individuals. The definition expresses the common core of nursing which remains constant. Nursing is the use of clinical judgment in the provision of care to enable people to improve, maintain, or recover their health. Nursing also help people cope with health problems, and to achieve the best possible quality of life, whatever their disease or disability, until death. Nursing is an applied science which has a unique body of knowledge that utilizes principles from the physical, biological, and behavioral sciences. The central concern of nursing is the holistic person. The focus of nursing is health promotion, maintenance, curative, restorative, supportive and terminal care to individuals and groups of all ages, taking into consideration the factors that influence them in the total environment.

The first defining characteristic of nursing is its purpose. The purpose of nursing is to promote health, healing, growth, and development. It is to prevent disease, illness, injury, and disability. When people become ill or disabled the purpose of nursing is to minimize distress and suffering, and to enable people to understand and cope with their disease or disability, its treatment and its consequences. When death is inevitable, the purpose of nursing is to maintain the best possible quality of life...
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