What Makes YOU a Pro RN?

In this article, the author talks about some ways that we can look toward becoming pro RNs.


What Makes YOU a Pro RN?

I sat talking Crystal, a senior nursing student, as we wrapped up our time together. She had been following me around, learning about what it means to be a Faith Community Nurse for six weeks. I asked her a few questions about her thoughts as she processed all she had seen and learned. Then I said, "Is there anything that bothers you at this point about nursing in general?"

She paused and seemed to hesitate before answering, "Well, my classmates and I have been talking about the way nurses talk in the nurses' station..." Her voice trailed off, but I felt like I knew exactly what she was referring to. She went on to tell the story of working on a floor where a loud and demanding patient tested his nurse's ability to stay cool. The nurse ended up venting in the nurses' station, just steps away from the patient, talking about how "impossible" the patient was. Crystal feared that her words could easily be overheard, not just by the patient but by others in the vicinity.

I asked her what she and her fellow nursing students thought about this type of venting. "It's really hard because I realize the patient was difficult and that the nurse was frustrated. But I didn't feel like she did the best she could do. I just don't know what to think since I'm only getting started in nursing."

Her comments got me to thinking. How do we help one another do our best? How do we respond when a breach of professionalism occurs? What is it that makes a "pro" nurse, [beyond the technical proficiency which is necessary]? What could I say to her to encourage this student as she launched into the profession?


They don't "LIKE" bad behavior.

In social media, "likes" equal re-enforcement and the continuation of the same line of information. Using that lingo, pro nurses don't give attention to, or reinforce unprofessional behavior. Not "liking" it means that we walk away, don't look up, don't respond, change the subject, don't join in. While this may not end the outburst, it will certainly not inflame or encourage it.

Pro nurses concentrate on doing their job well

They are not easily distracted by the variety of non-work related events going on around them. While they are unfailingly courteous, they don't prioritize catching up on the current events of the various co-worker's lives.

True professionals don't over-share about themselves

Instead, they are always mindful that it is all about the patient. When they do ask about how we are, the patients are not really interested in how we are doing. They are sick. They are in the hospital. When they ask, they are just being polite. Our job is to say we are "Fine, thank you, and how are YOU?" It is rarely appropriate to share anything about what is going on in our personal lives, even something as mundane as our commute to work. For the "Pro," it's about turning the conversation around to focus back on the patient and how we can help them. We have probably all witnessed the nurses that come in the room to do a chore for the patient-changing the bed, maybe-and then carry on a conversation with one another without ever including, and sometimes barely acknowledging, the patient.

Teaching is a hallmark of a Pro

Whether helping the patient with an activity of daily living, or talking with the family while positioning, or administering medication, or getting the prescriptions ready-no matter what the nursing setting- every interaction can be a teachable moment.

The Pro is great at listening and learning

She is observant, always assessing, using her nursing skills to the greatest degree possible to help the patient improve. The pro tries hard to be sensitive to their co-workers' needs and help out whenever possible.

Pros show compassion toward their co-workers and give them the benefit of the doubt

When we know each other well and care for one another, we learn to reserve judgment, to help one another through the tough days and to bring out the best in each other. I can remember working with a young woman that looked chronically fatigued. Dark circles lined her eyes and she seemed to drag around. I wondered why she didn't seem to have much energy. Then I learned she was a single mom to two little ones. The knowledge changed my perspective and also my ability to be patient and encouraging. Sometimes knowing one another can help us to maintain perspective. While our patient's needs and interests are first, we do have to work as a team and lift one another up whenever possible. Is it necessary to have a face-to-face confrontation with a co-worker that is struggling? Opinions may differ as we would all approach this differently, but the bottom line is that we have to have compassion for one another.

Crystal and I talked a little longer. I shared some possible insights and asked her how she thought she might handle a situation like this when she is an employed nurse and part of the team? We talked about some different ideas and discussed at length how a pro nurse comports themselves in a work environment. When she left, we had no definite answers. What would you do? What makes a pro nurse in your mind?


Joy has been a nurse for 35 years, practicing in a variety of settings. Currently, she is a Faith Community Nurse. She enjoys her grandchildren, cooking for crowds and taking long walks.

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Long Term Care Columnist / Guide

VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

142 Articles; 9,982 Posts

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych. Has 26 years experience.

Clinical competence, a way with people, and a sense of humor.


254 Posts

Let me count the ways: :writing:


-Chit-Chat comes first - so when given another admission, BTW this was 3 hours later after their first admit, this Pro worker will say, "I'm not even done with this admit and you're giving me another one."

-30 minute lunch break becomes a shopping spree, whether online or at the mall nearby

- Know it all

- Self-scheduler - "I've been here, I just couldn't find a spot to park"

- The Boss - one who calls for CNA's assistance for a a simple blanket or to ask them to clean someone's behind then just sits down to chit chat with his or her "fellow pro co-workers"

- A whiner but lacks substance

- One who can do the talk but can't do the walk

- Charmer or for a much better description a great a55 kisser

- Privileged - one who gets away with everything because he or she is the manager's right hand

- Fair - One who always like to switch their schedule around and when not granted by a fellow co-worker gives them that evil look or adds them on their shitake list

-Histrionic, narcissistic, grandiose, "Tripolar"

-Selfie Queen and Kings