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'Appearance is really important if you want to be taken seriously'


Your demeanor and bearing as a nurse is so important because in the end you’re selling yourself to patients.

Comportment is one of the six Cs outlined by Jane Cummings. It is also the one I find to be one of the most pertinent and valuable, if applied correctly in practice. It’s talking about your conduct as a nurse, your demeanor and your manner.

When you put on your uniform in the morning, be it a student nurse or fully qualified uniform, you instantly become someone’s personifcation of hope.

I once had a parent approach me and say, “do you mind if my child is not treated by that nurse over there. He looks as though he has spent the night on the street.”

You become an authoritive professional who knows what they are doing. An inspiration to those who need your help. You become a confident and tireless person who wants to do good.

But a few things can undermine this impression. In my mind, a crumpled uniform and messy appearance can really undercut your demeanor as a nurse.

I once had a parent approach me and say, “do you mind if my child is not treated by that nurse over there. He looks as though he has spent the night on the street.”

In fairness, he did look as though he had spent the night on the street. He was one of the best nurses I could learn from, but he looked terrible. He hadn’t shaved, his hair looked messy and his shirt was creased and coffee stained.

If vulnerable patients look up to see you entering the ward in an unironed and unwashed uniform, they may wait until they see someone who is looking a bit more respectful and professional to ask for help.

“People buy people,” my wife often tells me, she is a saleswoman. And it’s true, as you are unlikely to buy something from someone if you don’t like them.

It is the same in nursing. Patients are more likely to listen to you and take on board your advice if you are looking professional and behaving in an appropriate manner.

What are your experiences? Do you think it’s important?

Mikey Whitehead is the student nurse editor for children’s nursing for Student Nursing Times.


Readers' comments (45)

  • I agree with you Mikey. I strongly believe in comportment in the nursing profession. I am a student (Adult branch) nurse.I have heard similar words before. Come on fellow students, lets pull up our socks !

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  • hmmmm.... If only it were this simple.
    Good on you for your thoughts mind you!
    I personally like having a good look to my uniform and shoes (well..I was an Air Cadet you know!) and i've had no comments about my Tattoos either but don't hold too fast to the 6 C's.

    I think Ms Cummings and her 'values' have an agenda behind them and it is a slight distraction to the real issues that we should be adressing, but yeah..ok...Lets look smart!

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  • michael stone

    'You become an authoritive professional who knows what they are doing.'

    I think that if you look the part, you are likely to be assumed that: if you don't, then your competence will perhaps be 'questioned'.

    But looking the part, does not prove competence: I can think of many instances where I have heard someone using perfect spoken English, but nonetheless spouting a stream of pure nonsense !

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  • We have no option but to treat smelly, repugnant people, who stink of stale booze, breathe fag smoke all over us; and others who can be outspoken in their personal opinion of what a nurse looks like, treating the unfortunate nurse as though they are an unfeeling commodity. Very often this is based on pure snobbery.
    Nurses very often look bedraggled/tired/sweaty when they have an impossible and heavy case load to manage, and have not had an adequate break but manage merely on a couple of glasses of water during their shifts.
    I agree that personal hygiene and clean laundered uniforms are imperative; but if we start bowing to the often flimsy and barbarous personal comments of often disgruntled patients, we are going to start sliding down a slippery slope back to the 70's and 80's when nurses were judged on how nice their smile is, how pretty they are and how nice and feminine their voice is - rather than how good a nurse they are.
    And - dear students - this was a REAL survey of REAL patients in the early eighties entitled "what makes a good nurse!" So beware.

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  • true, when you don't get adequate breaks and with all the rushing around all day usually on a very warm ward there isn't much time to worry about and go and fix your appearance. It was worse with hats as they went squiffy each time you had to go under the beds or a patient you were trying to lift or turn grabbed them!

    Nurses aren't like air hostesses in freshly pressed uniforms who manage to stay looking fresh and immaculate all day long. besides they go on appearance courses as part of their training. maybe we should have them too and they should be part of our CPD hereafter as fashion, styles and uniforms change and as we age, at the NHS and taxpayers expense of course!

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  • I completely agree with Mikey. All of us judge people by how they appear, that's human nature. If I was going on an aeroplane and the pilot looked like he'd slept in his uniform, I'd get off the plane! It is possible to work a busy 12 hour shift and look tidy at the end of it.

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  • Michael Whitehead

    Would you all agree that comportment is one of the most important of the C's? If not, which one do you think will be?

    I am planning on doing a series of blogs on the 6Cs and would love some feedback and to hear your thoughts. Post them below!

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  • please remind readers what the Cs were so we can respond to your request.

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  • I agree with you that we need to look presentable at work, I think that applies to all jobs. As a mental health nurse I don't wear uniforms & sometimes I panic that I don't look "nursey" enough. I guess that is a bonus of having uniforms to wear.

    For anon above the 6Cs are care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment.

    Although comportment isn't specifically mentioned I think Mikey raises a good point.

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  • Hmm. Sometimes there are so few nurses around to actually attend to patients, that I'm sure that many patients would be more concerned that we make an appearance...regardless of how we look.....!

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