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Is nursing defined as a profession, practice or simply as work?

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by 2B_RN_2008 2B_RN_2008 (Member)

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hi there everyone,

i am a nursing student at the university of colorado health science center. one of my current courses is role development in professional nursing practice. this week one or our readings posed an interesting question, to define nursing. should nursing be defined as a profession, a practice, or as work? i found this to be difficult to answer the following is what i have posted in my online course. i am hopeful to get some additional insight from experienced nurses and their prospective. if anyone is willing to he me find a better understanding on this point it would be much appreciated.

the following is what i have already submitted to my class:

how do liaschenko and peter define nursing as profession, as practice and as work?

i believe that liaschenko and peter are defining nursing as work. there are statements within this paper that show that in the past that nursing has been defined as a profession or as a practice. liaschenko and peter explain their rational as to why nursing is not a profession or a practice. they go on to introduce a definition of nursing as work rather than a profession or practice stating that the definitions prior to work are to limiting or inaccurate. i believe that they like their predecessors are attempting to categorize nursing as a single definable inadequate definition. i am not sure that there is a single word be it work, profession, or practice that would be encompassing enough to be termed a definition for nursing. i hold the same belief as olga ellis stated in her posting that any definition of nursing should “include and combine such words as a calling, profession, practice, work, science, ethics, and pshycology of relationships.”

one question i have is why is there a push, need, importance to define nursing as one particular word which dose not seem to accomplish the ideal of providing a meaning in which society can then gain a greater understanding of what nursing actually is.

thanks for you time

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2,801 Posts; 13,331 Profile Views

The short answer is that there is no fully agreed upon definition of nursing. You could probably argue many different angles. Depending on your instructor, you might do well to support his/her view of it as opposed to taking a more challenging stance.

It's my understanding that the idea of nursing as a profession is what most nursing academics support. Of course, that depends on one's definition of "profession." Often, it seems that nursing is trying to frame itself as equal to, different from, and complementary to medicine. I rarely see arguments for nursing as a profession by comparing nurses to plumbers or hair dressers, though they are also considered professionals under many definitions of the term.

Having a specialized knowledge base is part of many definitions of profession and it seems like that was a major impetus for the development of formalized nursing diagnoses.

Of course, there's no denying that nursing is a practice, especially acute care nursing. There is the application of technical, manual skills and the utilization of previous experiential knowledge. Mathematics, on the other hand, can be purely theoretical (I've heard that anyway). Nursing as a field doesn't exist without patients who need nursing care.

Nursing as work? Seems kinda like a no-brainer - uh, yeah, isn't providing services for money "work" no matter what the service? Nursing does include basic care such as ambulating and feeding. Doing these tasks, I suppose, could be considered *just* work once the patient has been assessed as stable and that's why nurses are able to delegate these tasks to unlicensed personnel.

I personally find this kind of discussion interesting, although consensus is almost never reached.

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ambil has 20 years experience.

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Keep it simple, nursing is a profession. Just like the medical profession, which encompases a vast array of specialties. The nursing profession encompases also a vast array of specialties that we draw from. We practice as nurses in our profession. We work as nurses in our profession... We base what we know and learn through the sciences of our profession... We incorporate and practice good ethics within our profession... We learn about the psychology of relationships and use them in our profession... I guess one could say I'm in favor of the word profession in describing who and what we are.

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santhony44 is a MSN, RN, NP and specializes in FNP, Peds, Epilepsy, Mgt., Occ. Ed.

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I would agree with profession. I don't understand the question "is nursing a practice or a profession." I think you practice a profession. (Doctors practice medicine, lawyers practice law, etc)

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I would agree with profession. I don't understand the question "is nursing a practice or a profession." I think you practice a profession. (Doctors practice medicine, lawyers practice law, etc)

In the paper Nursing ethics and conceptualizations of nursing: profession, practice and work in the journal Philosophical and and ethical issues, authors Liaschenko and Peter. They are concluding that nursing should only be defined as work rather than a profession or a practice. I guess the difficulty that I am having is that I disagree with them. I see nursing as a profession where within this profession you practice your knowledge and skills, and of course work. The strict definition of nursing as only work seems to state that nurses could be compared to any trade even such trades as a garbage collector, landscaper, and other trades that do not require a defined acquired knowledge through many years of education.

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3 Followers; 36,789 Posts; 97,013 Profile Views

In my BSN program we were taught and the textbooks stated that nursing is a profession. I would find that statement a lot easier to defend if the reality I have seen every day of my working life since school supported this.

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Larry in Florida has 12 years experience and specializes in corrections, LTC, pre-op.

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In my BSN program we were taught and the textbooks stated that nursing is a profession. I would find that statement a lot easier to defend if the reality I have seen every day of my working life since school supported this.

Nursing is a profession, end of discussion.

Rn Larry

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It's mostly just semantics in my book. You know that you're in a BSN program if you have papers to do with questions like that.

While semantics do have a role to play in improving the image of nursing, I don't see that it's crucial to have nursing students frame arguments about whether or not nursing is a profession - which of course depends upon one's definition of profession, which is also debatable. (Though as a student nurse, you'd better argue that it IS a profession or your instructor will balk.) This is more of a sociologic question than one that individual practicing nurses need concern themselves with. In fact, by asking the question, the implication is that many people DON'T consider nursing a profession... but to the average person, who cares?! Do electricians wax poetic about how "professional" they are? Do hairdressers need to define why they're are professionals before being allowed to open their own beauty shop?

On the other hand, nurses DO need to know their legal responsibilities and limitations, their legitimate practice options, what kind of liability they need to be concerned about, etc in addition to knowing nursing skills. THOSE are the types of issues that should be covered in "Professional Nursing Practice" - not asking each student to frame their own argument of why nursing is a profession (under the guise of ASKING the question IF nursing is a profession... how round-a-bout is that?!).

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subee has 45 years experience as a MSN, CRNA.

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It's mostly just semantics in my book. You know that you're in a BSN program if you have papers to do with questions like that.

While semantics do have a role to play in improving the image of nursing, I don't see that it's crucial to have nursing students frame arguments about whether or not nursing is a profession - which of course depends upon one's definition of profession, which is also debatable. (Though as a student nurse, you'd better argue that it IS a profession or your instructor will balk.) This is more of a sociologic question than one that individual practicing nurses need concern themselves with. In fact, by asking the question, the implication is that many people DON'T consider nursing a profession... but to the average person, who cares?! Do electricians wax poetic about how "professional" they are? Do hairdressers need to define why they're are professionals before being allowed to open their own beauty shop?

On the other hand, nurses DO need to know their legal responsibilities and limitations, their legitimate practice options, what kind of liability they need to be concerned about, etc in addition to knowing nursing skills. THOSE are the types of issues that should be covered in "Professional Nursing Practice" - not asking each student to frame their own argument of why nursing is a profession (under the guise of ASKING the question IF nursing is a profession... how round-a-bout is that?!).

Semantics is very important - it separates the educated from the trained. Precise communication forces us to think about the issue and prepare a reasonable argument. A lot of us have jobs where we don't have to think about the bigger picture, but some nurses have to create the fields for change and those people must be articulate and represent our "profession" as one inhabited by "reasonable" people. Fortunately I get to be a prole but let's face it, the most articulate people get to work in the better trenches.

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262 Posts; 2,682 Profile Views

I believe that we are fighting for the right to be called a profession, although we lack the respect and monetary rewards that should go with that. Plumbers make as much or more.....

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Subee, I mostly agree. However, these are undergraduate nursing students. They aren't even novices yet and are still learning the basics of the profession and then they are being asked to formulate from scratch arguments on whether or not nursing is a profession? I think that should be left to the academics, not the average nurse.

I think a person can practice a profession, be professional, and come across professionally without being able to compose a good paper on why their work should be considered a profession.

Instead of telling nursing students over and over "you're professionals and don't let anyone tell you otherwise" give nurses the skills and information to protect their profession.

For example, short-staffing is a major issue nurses face and must deal with. Nursing students are told that patient safety comes first. Thus, it follows that nurses must refuse unsafe assignments. But there's little instruction on the implications and legalities of doing that and how to work to effect change. So instead, in practice, nurses either suck it up (as management encourages them to do) or move on to greener pastures (and allow unsafe conditions to persist in their previous workplace).

Nursing students could be actively encouraged to be involved in state and national policy-making in regard to nursing practice. For example, are medication aids utilized in that state? Are nurses responsible for overseeing their work? What are the legal implications? As nurses, how would they like to contribute to the on-going development of that role? Nurses CAN influence policy if mobilized.

While nursing academics push the idea that nurses are professionals, healthcare management tends to treat nurses as nothing more than staffing numbers. What can the nurse actually *do* about it? Just arguing that nurses are professionals doesn't effect change. Instead, those frustrated with the majority of *basic* nursing work available move on to advanced practice were they are *treated* as professionals and not just *told* they are professionals.

** Peripherally related to the topic, some argue that physicians are being "de-professionalized" by the restrictions put upon their practice by managed care organizations.

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NRSKarenRN has 40 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion.

5 Followers; 10 Articles; 14,534 Posts; 160,423 Profile Views

a profession:

  • draws on a well-defined body of intellectual knowledge.


  • uses the scientific methods to enlarge that body of knowledge, improving education and service.
  • educates its practitioners in institutions of higher learning.
  • functions autonomously in control of professional policy and activity and functions within a code of ethics.
  • is composed of individuals who consider this occupation as their lifework, contributing to the good of society through service to others.
  • requires continuous professional development.

nursing as a profession -from winkipedia ---

agree with all concepts highlighted as hallmarks of a profession, documenting how we meet definition of profession. karen

nursing is guided by nursing research, and is governed by a code of ethics.

nursing continues to develop a wide body of knowledge and associated skills. there are a number of educational paths to becoming a professional nurse, but all involve extensive study of nursing theory and practice and training in clinical skills.

the authority for the practice of nursing is based upon a social contract that delineates professional rights and responsibilities as well as mechanisms for public accountability. in almost all countries, nursing practice is defined and governed by law, and entrance to the profession is regulated by national, state, or territorial boards of nursing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/nursing

"nursing is a profession because the law says it is". ...

www.realnurse.net/articles/profession.shtml

practice and profession of nursing

article nurseweek

aacn - publications - position statements

are you sure nurses are autonomous? aren't physicians calling the shots...

book: role development in professional nursing practice

ana: code of ethics for nurses with interpretive statements

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