Nursing is a profession, the depth and breadth of which is to meet different heath care needs of the population (American Nurses Association(ANA), 2010). This demand to clarify what professionalism or profession mean in the health care field. The term ‘professionalism’ has autonomy and self-regulation as the characteristics central to it. It signifies that a profession has authority to establish standards of conduct, practice and training & regulate entry level to the profession (Downie, 1990 cited in Morrel, 2003). From professional perspective, nursing has complex natural history of identification as a vocation with aspiration of being a profession from a long time (Brown & Libberton, 2007). Today, the traditional image of nurses as doctor’s handmaiden has changed to autonomous professional image as ‘registered nurse’. English law in the United Kingdom (UK) protects this title (Peate & Offredy, 2007) and worldwide, International Council of Nurses (ICN, 1998) argued that only those who are able to provide full scope of nursing should use the title ‘nurse’. The notion of professionalism in the nursing field expected that registered nurses should aspire to practice with compassion, competence and commitment to service, with ethical and clinical standards, with leading and managing qualities and by applying conceptual and theoretical frameworks as a problem solving approach in the practice (Brown & Libberton, 2007). In this century, these characteristics are required in the nursing profession to meet the demands of hospitals in transforming their health care environments according to the changing needs of society and advancement in technology (Warren, 2009).
However, Fineout-Overholt et al. (2005) in Warren (2009) argued that the current nursing work force lack knowledge in research methods and evidence based practice to increase the positive patient outcome. To overcome this problem in the future, Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC, 2010) has initiated policy to make nursing an all-graduate profession by 2013. Moreover, while taking in to account expectations of public from a professional nurse in this modern era, the priority areas of new policy initiatives (e.g. Modernising Nursing Careers) suggest implications having influence on pre and post registration nursing education for the true preparation of nurses in the 21st century (Department of Health (DoH), 2008). The change in pre-registration entry becomes a matter of debate between the traditional and contemporary extended role of nurses. The diversity of nursing profession gives rise to a range of definitions of nursing with different themes. Moreover, the changing demands of public as well as the practice and purpose of nursing has also contributed to defining nursing from time to time. Today, the need to explore ‘What nursing really is’ is important as it could be said that nursing is turning away from its traditional role of caring which is degraded in the higher academic education. The movement of student nurses in the universities view ‘caring’ essence of nursing as ‘too posh to wash’ (O’Driscoll et al. 2010). Nonetheless, although on one side, the issue of whether or not nurses should bound their role to caring is debated, on the other side, how nursing can achieve its professional status in the eyes of public and media is at play. In this essay, along with the exploration of nursing image in the society and the influence of politics on nursing, nursing education in the contemporary practice and the role of professional nurse will be examined. Before proceeding on the current nursing status, it is pertinent to evaluate how events in the nursing history have shaped it in the present situation.
ORIGIN OF THE PROFESSIONAL NURSING
An examination of nursing history reflects the unique place of nursing profession in the health care field (Hood & Leddy,...