Chief nursing officers from all four UK countries have for the first time jointly laid out what professionalism means in nursing and midwifery practice in new guidance launched today.
The document – titled Enabling professionalism in nursing and midwifery practice – is aimed at helping nurses to think about their contribution to services and also assisting employers with providing environments that encourage professional behaviours.
“[Nurses and midwives] play a critical role in strategy, service redesign and improving health outcomes”
CNO guidance on professionalism
It highlights how nurses and midwives “play a critical role in strategy, service redesign and improving health outcomes, actively enabling co-production and decision making at all levels of policy making and service provision”.
The guidance links elements of professionalism to the registrants’ code of practice – produced by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which is supporting the new guidance.
These include being accountable, taking on leadership responsibilities, advocating for patients and being competent.
Meanwhile, employers are reminded of “fostering a positive environment to raise concerns when issues arise that could compromise safety, quality and experience”.
“Enabling professionalism means doing the right thing, every time, in every environment, regardless of who is or isn’t watching”
Organisations should recognise nursing and midwifery leadership through actions such as valuing their evidence-based opinions and ensuring they have access to senior roles, said the guidance.
Meanwhile, they should encourage autonomous practice through measures such as providing access to expertise for coaching models and practice learning, and by enabling registrants to work within the upper limits of their scope of practice.
The guidance also emphasises the importance of workplaces that encourage inter-professional collaboration with other staff groups and teams, and ensuring development opportunities are available, as well as meaningful appraisals.
In addition, employers must ensure certain resources are available, such as appropriate staffing and shared information and data.
Launching the guidance, CNO for Northern Ireland Professor Charlotte McArdle, who led the work on behalf of the four counties, said: “Enabling professionalism means doing the right thing, every time, in every environment, regardless of who is or isn’t watching.
“The world is changing, and nurses and midwives have a key leadership role in meeting current and future challenges”
“[This guidance] provides, for the first time, a structured framework to help us reflect on and guide those daily interactions with the public.”
England’s CNO Professor Jane Cummings described it as a “significant resource”.
“The world is changing, and nurses and midwives have a key leadership role in meeting current and future challenges,” she said. “We all have a role to play and supporting professional development is vital.”
CNO for Wales Professor Jean White said she hoped the new guidance would “engage [people] in a conversation about what it means to be a professional nurse or midwife”, while Scotland’s CNO, Professor Fiona McQueen, said it would “support all nurses and midwives to be the very best they can be”.
“It is critical that employers provide the systems and conditions in which midwives and nurses can flourish”
Jackie Smith, chief executive and registrar of the NMC, said: “We want all nurses and midwives to be able to provide the best care possible and ‘Enabling professionalism’ provides a framework for helping them to do exactly that.”
Commenting on the new guidance, the Royal College of Midwives said it would be “extremely helpful” to midwives and nurses as they interpret the NMC code in practice.
However, RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick stressed the importance of having enough staff in place, and adequate opportunities to access learning and development to ensure registrants could practise effectively.
“This document cannot exist in isolation,” she said. ”It is critical that employers provide the systems and conditions in which midwives and nurses can flourish and practice safe care.
“This is increasingly challenging in an NHS which is under-resourced and facing increasing demands, a position which is true of maternity services,” she said.