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Being professional - what it means for nurses

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Thinking of a “professional” can conjure up images of briefcases and Blackberrys. But a person’s dress code is only a symbol - it’s attitude and behaviour that count

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) is the body that sets the standards that you’re expected to meet as a nursing or midwifery student.

As you venture into nursing for the first time, becoming familiar with the NMC code will help you get to grips with your responsibilities as a professional and a nurse.  

Nicola Rowlands, professional adviser for education at the NMC, says: “Being a professional means adhering to the code: standards of conduct, performance and ethics for nurses and midwives. Our code is the foundation of good nursing and midwifery practice, and is a key tool in safeguarding the health and wellbeing of the public.”

Failing to adhere to the code may lead to a registered nurse being removed from the register, so it’s vital to gain a good understanding of what’s expected from you.

“It is important that students understand they are entering a profession that carries with it great privilege and responsibility,” says Ms Rowlands. “We want them to feel proud of the profession they are preparing to enter and ensure they uphold the values and standards expected.”

The NMC has four main principles:

1. Make the care of people your first concern, treating them as individuals and respecting their dignity

 “Make care your first concern”

  • Listen to the views of others instead of doggedly following your own path
  • Offer information and advice in a simple way so that people can make decisions about their own care
  • Do not accept gifts that you think could be interpreted as an attempt to gain preferential treatment

“Treat patients as individuals”

  • Recognise that every patient is different and will have unique needs
  • Respect that everyone, nurses and colleagues, have different cultural values and beliefs too
  • Do not assume you know what someone needs or what someone will want by the way they look

“Respect dignity”

  • When referring to patient case studies in your coursework, or anything that may identify an individual, be sure to change the names or make them anonymous e.g. Patient A
  • Do not give out information to someone who isn’t entitled to it, and if you’re not sure, ask your supervisor

 2. Work with others to protect and promote the health and wellbeing of those in your care, their families and carers and the wider community

“Work with others”

  • Try to co-operate with members of your team and respect their individual contributions to your education
  • Treat everyone you work with with the same amount of respect
  • Let your mentor know if you believe you or someone else is putting someone at risk of harm

3. Provide a high standard of practice and care at all times

“High standard of care”

  • Ask for help when you need it and recognise when you’re out of your depth, it’s not going to look bad if you admit that you need more guidance
  • Attend your shifts and be punctual

4. Be open and honest, act with integrity and uphold the reputation of your profession

“Be open and honest”

  • Do not plagiarise coursework or clinical assessments
  • Complete a truthful and accurate CV

“Act with integrity”

  • Inform your university if you are cautioned, charged or found guilty of a criminal offence

“Uphold the reputation of your profession”

  • Follow your clinical placement dress code
  • Be aware that how you act outside of your placement, in your spare time, also impacts on your perceived ability to practise

And finally, if you’re not sure … ask

You’re learning, so it’s perfectly acceptable to ask if you’re unsure. Double checking is all a part of being a student. This is especially important when you feel you need to protect someone from harm or if someone has indicated that they’re unhappy about their treatment or care. “Mentors are there to supervise, assess and support students,” says Ms Rowlands. “It is important that students get regular feedback on their performance so they have the opportunity to build on their strengths and address their weaknesses.”

Your university should also provide its own support services and you can also contact the NMC’s confidential helpline on 0207 333 9333 to speak to an expert adviser.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Adam Roxby

    Getting to know the NCM code is such an important aspect of a students development and in fact it's not as complicated as people might think.

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