1. Morse, Kate J. RN, CCRN, CRNP, MSN

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Many of us view nursing as a profession, not a job. Unfortunately, there are still stereotypical portrayals of nurses-as the physician's handmaid, a self-sacrificing angel of mercy, a sex object, or even a shrew. Can we replace the stereotypes with an authentic, professional image, or do these stereotypes remain because we don't perceive ourselves as members of a profession, but rather, people doing a job?

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Honesty and ethics

According to a recent Gallup poll, the public perceives nurses as honest and ethical. Approximately 8 of 10 Americans (79%) gave nurses a "high or very high" rating for honesty and ethical standards.1 However, does this perception deem us professionals or just good at our jobs? Though many of us consider ourselves professionals, the demands of bedside practice create conflict between being a professional and performing a job. In conversations with nurses about their practice, increasingly they tell me they're overwhelmed and feel they're simply performing tasks-administering medications, documenting assessment, documenting fall risk, and so on. They feel they've moved away from the concept of profession and closer to the idea of completing a job.


Profession vs. job

How is a profession different from a job? A profession can be defined as a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation.2 However, a "job" can be defined as a specific duty, role, or function.2 I think these definitions clearly demonstrate that nursing is a profession. However, this can get lost in a busy day at the hospital and we do ourselves a disservice by not portraying ourselves as professionals.


We're not presenting a professional image when we don't introduce ourselves as the nurse caring for a family member's loved one, when we wear inappropriate attire at the bedside, and if we allow others to inappropriately use the designation of nurse.


We should identify ourselves as registered nurses and clearly define our role. We aren't just nurses at the bedside; we're professionals who are responsible for the care of patients for the next 8 to 12 hours.


The administrative assistant at your primary care provider's office isn't a nurse and shouldn't use that title. It's important that we intervene when others who haven't completed the education, training, and licensure use the title "nurse."


Though I'm not recommending returning to nursing caps and white uniforms, I do understand the public's confusion in hospitals regarding who's who based on attire. Although it's cheery to see all the bright patterns that allow each person to express his or her personality, I wonder if it does a disservice to our profession.


It makes a difference that our shoes are clean and that our lab coats are pressed. Right or wrong, such attire forms an impression on the patient and his or her family. Once a first impression has been made, it's difficult to change the public's perception.


I challenge all of you to discuss these issues with your colleagues. Ask yourselves, do we have a professional image problem, and if so, how can we find solutions?


Kate J. Morse, RN, CCRN, CRNP, MSN


Editor-in-Chief, Director of Nurse Practitioners, Chester County Hospital, West Chester, Pa.




1. Moore DW. Nurses top list in honesty and ethics poll. Available at: Accessed December 22, 2006. [Context Link]


2. Profession. Available at: Accessed December 22, 2006. [Context Link]