The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing

Professionalists, All

Margretta Madden Styles, EdD, RN, FAAN

As the world welcomes a new millennium, organized nursing is marking its centennial. In June 1999, thousands of colleagues from national nurses associations around the globe gathered at the 100th anniversary of the International Council of Nurses (ICN) in London, the city where it all began with a handful of nurse leaders at the turn of the 20th century. Banners strung throughout the hallowed halls of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Center and Westminster Abbey exhorted us at every rum to "Celebrate Nursing's Past and Claim the Future" for the profession. In keeping with this backward and forward impulse, speakers reminded us of many facets of our proud history, and a 21st century vision for ICN was unveiled.

Anticipating the writing of this piece for The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, I attended these meetings with an ear tuned for messages for professional developers. And I was not disappointed. But you must listen and discern for yourselves.

Florence Nightingale's provocative assertion that the elements of nursing are all but unknown and her thundering admonition that no system shall endure that does not march echoed from the past. For the future, ICN envisioned, in part, that our mission is to lead our societies toward better health. Working together within ICN, we harness the knowledge and enthusiasm of the entire nursing profession to promote healthy lifestyles, healthy workplaces, and healthy communities. We foster the health of our societies as well as individuals by supporting strategies of sustainable development that mitigate poverty, pollution, and other underlying causes of illness.

Working together, we are at the forefront of incorporating advanced technology into health care without losing the human element. We are determined that science and technology remain the servant of compassionate and ethical caring that includes meeting spiritual and emotional needs.

Working together...we are achieving higher levels of nursing education in every nation - education that is liberally and scientifically based, flexible and culturally sensitive, and founded on the core values of our profession. We ensure that nurses are educated for broad provider and policy roles that fully integrate and utilize nursing within multidisciplinary health teams. We equip nurses to be skilled points of entry for health care, able to care for clients and to guide them to other caregivers as appropriate. We continually add new clusters of competencies to lead and reflect dynamic changes in health care, and we insure that health care systems recognize and reward those competencies. Together, we work for values, policies, standards, and conditions that free nurses to practice to the full extent of their education and ability.

Our highest reward is the certain knowledge that our work is shaping a future of healthy people in a healthy world.

What clarion call for professional developers sounds within this world vision for nursing? Themes include:

* Nursing individuals and societies.

* Incorporating technology.

* Mamtaining the human element.

* Developing new competencies.

* Working together within nursing and in multidisciplinary teams.

* Educating for advocacy and policy roles.

* Applying core values and encouraging ethical caring.

The goals, subjects, methods, and rewards of lifelong professional development can be mined from this vision statement. Try your hand at deriving a broad-strokes scenario and agenda for your specialty within ICN's all-profession vision in its entirety.

In addition, I propose a new perspective on your role as specialists in lifelong development and challenge you to strive toward its perfection. In 1982, I wrote a book entitled On Nursing: Toward a New Endowment. In those pages I introduced and explored the concept of professionhood, as compared with the traditional concept of professionalism. I explained the two as follows:

* Professionhood focuses on the characteristics of the individual as a member of the profession.

* Professionalism emphasizes the character of the profession as a whole.

I argued that the professionalism of nursing will be achieved only through the professionhood of its members. Fostering the characteristics of professionhood must be the major goal of professional developers. These characteristics are: * A sense of social significance.

* A commitment to the ultimacy of professional performance.

* Appreciation of collegiality and collectivity.

Now, as 1 approach the end of my active nursing career, I have reflected and searched for something to point to. This has led me to coin another term to describe the intent of my work over the years. I think of myself as a professionalist, that is, by my definition, one who devotes his or her creativity and energies to the development of a profession. Professionalists strive to build a solid foundation for their calling - an ethical, academic, political, and socioeconomic foundation to serve as the underpinning for a strong profession to evolve and serve.

* A professionalist seeks every opportunity to influence the culture of the profession.

* A professionalist participates in organizations whereby the standards and policies governing the profession are shaped from within and without.

* A professionalist fosters the ongoing growth, refinement, and dissemination of the knowledge base of the profession.

* A professionalist finds ways to shape the workplace environment to advance, capitalize on, and recognize nurses' competencies and contributions.

* A professionalist makes every effort to raise the status of the profession among all professions and to enhance the image of the profession in the eyes of the public.

* A professionalist labors to recruit the best candidates from the best schools of nursing.

* A professionalist is committed to the development of nurses to achieve ultimacy, the highest possible level of performance and professional satisfaction.

Think about it. Think about yourself and your work in relation to this definition. Aren't we professionalists, all?


  • Styles, M. (1982). On nursing: Toward a new endowment. St. Louis: Mosby.


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