“At the heart of being a good health care practitioner, lies professionalism, setting the standard of what a patient should expect “(Dhai p 174). This statement quoted from Professor A. Dhai’s “Understanding Professionalism in Health Care in the Twenty First Century” details a perspective on the role of a modern day health professional. In her article, Dhai stresses the notion of an ideal health professional being both technically skilled and ethically adept. Using the quote as a baseline of the opinion, this essay will explore the various components of the general interpretations of a modern day health professional, and will further specify its focus on the discipline of Nursing. The foundation of this notion being that in order to meet a general standard of professionalism, legitimate health professionals including nurses, is to be competent both in skill and ethics.
Although the word ‘professional’ has been present in western culture for a long time, the term had varied and evolved throughout times. Selden (1968) quoted in his article of William Combe’s writing during the previous century "The learned professions, all agree,/Are physic, law and divinity." Which regard three professions of “medicine, law and theology” as the most fundamental professions, indicating the extensive nature of the term. During the early twentieth century, the term ‘professional’ was regarded as a working individual who was paid for their labour, as opposed to an ‘amateur’ who worked without pay. The term was exercised further for workers who were self regulating and subsequently, ‘professionals’ evolved to reference highly skilled and specialised workers. During the latter half of the twentieth century, the term was commonly applied to workers who were adept at their chosen occupation (Dhai p 174). Despite the changes of language with the definition, one common distinct characteristic is the expectation of a level of competency. The importance of competency as well as leadership as proposed by the healthcare leadership alliance was summarised by Garman et al.(2006) in their summary, professionalism competency was quoted from the healthcare leadership alliance as “"[t]he ability to align personal and organizational conduct with ethical and professional standards that include a responsibility to the patient and community, a service orientation, and a commitment to lifelong learning and improvement." Competency and leadership was described as a “central theme” to professionalism, with guidelines of recommendations to establish networks, working with others and self efficiency. Leadership in a healthcare setting was emphasised as a critical aspect of developing competent employees, as role models establish examples of working behaviour in the healthcare setting.
In context to nursing in Australia, one definite indication of competency is completion of appropriate education, as strongly imposed on reputable professional organisations such as the Australian nursing and midwifery board. Amongst many other established boards for specified allied health professions, the Australian nursing and midwifery board requires all members to practice nursing strictly under the professional codes and guidelines as set by the board. These codes and guidelines provide a standard in which nurses will work as ‘professionals’ as conceptualised by the board. Examples of professional conduct set by the board include: “Nurses practice in a safe and competent manner”, “Nurses practise and conduct themselves in accordance with laws relevant to the profession and practice of nursing.” and “Nurses support the health, wellbeing and informed decision making of people requiring or receiving care”(Australian nursing and midwifery council. 2006). Within the board’s context of professionalism it can be briefly summarised that nurses are expected to practice in a competent, law-abiding and respectful way whilst being mindful of their own safety. Achievement...
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