The concepts of professionalism and professionalization help specialists to understand the process of professional development and its results. In broad terms, professionalism is the presence of attitudes, character, and conduct linked to specific requirements associated with a field. In nursing, it can be understood as a specialist’s excellent knowledge of ethics, principles of communication with patients, and the art of caring (Dehghani, Salsali, & Cheraghi, 2016; Kim et al., 2017). The second important concept, professionalization, refers to the process surrounding the acquisition of knowledge and skills that turn a person into a qualified specialist. At the systems level, it can be understood as the transformation of nursing into a globally recognized profession with its own quality standards and qualifications requirements (Gunn et al., 2019). Therefore, it has to deal with the establishment of the norms of conduct to be respected by all representatives of the professional community.
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The most obvious feature that the concepts have in common is that both refer to the use of accepted standards to distinguish between professional and unprofessional conduct. It is more explicit in the notion of professionalism, but, as a process, professionalization also involves the establishment of such evaluation criteria. However, speaking about the differences, it is pivotal to understand that the two terms are not interchangeable, and the relationships between them are asymmetrical. Basically, professionalization can be presented as a continuous process, whereas professionalism is one of its results.
Both concepts are critically important for further development of the nursing profession. If there was no notion of professionalism, it would be impossible to educate nurses on behaviors that promote or violate ethical values. Nowadays, due to the state of research, the understanding of professionalism can be expanded and applied to different situations outside of the workplace, for instance, online communication with patients (International Nurse Regulator Collaborative, 2016). Therefore, a clear understanding of professionalism propels nursing at the next level by encouraging professional behaviors in all aspects of life. As for the second concept and its importance, an understanding of professionalization helps to keep track of the profession’s evolution (Choperena & Fairman, 2018). With that in mind, it becomes possible to draw analogies between historical periods, the state of nursing science, and the profession’s status. Applying this knowledge to today’s situation, the professional community can outline future goals and direct the process of professionalization accordingly.
Both terms find reflection in my current practice with different patient populations. At first, at my current workplace, I am expected to demonstrate my professionalism by choosing communication strategies with attention to patients’ characteristics. As an example, when communicating with geriatric clients with conditions that affect their cognition, I often utilize a lower speech rate and encourage their representatives’ participation in decision-making. Professionalism also impacts my practice since I align my decisions with healthcare consumers’ expectations associated with high-quality care. For instance, apart from helping patients to cope with physical problems, I usually analyze their current emotional and psychological needs to provide support or ask mental health specialists for assistance. As for the impact of professionalization, just like other nurses, I should meet the necessary professional qualifications and be fully aware of the specific norms of behavior to work in a healthcare institution.
Finally, concerning the development goals, I am planning to integrate an understanding of professionalism and professionalization into my future practice. It can be done by keeping track of changes in professional standards and competencies associated with my job. It is of critical importance since I will be able to understand the most current definitions of professional behaviors and improve my performance in accordance with new information.
Choperena, A., & Fairman, J. (2018). Louisa May Alcott and Hospital Sketches: An innovative approach to gender and nursing professionalization. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 74(5), 1059-1067.
Dehghani, A., Salsali, M., & Cheraghi, M. A. (2016). Professionalism in Iranian nursing: Concept analysis. International Journal of Nursing Knowledge, 27(2), 111-118.
Gunn, V., Muntaner, C., Ng, E., Villeneuve, M., Gea-Sanchez, M., & Chung, H. (2019). Gender equality policies, nursing professionalization, and the nursing workforce: A cross-sectional, time-series analysis of 22 countries, 2000–2015. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 99, 103388. Web.
International Nurse Regulator Collaborative. (2016). Social media use: Common expectations for nurses. Web.
Kim, Y. H., Jung, Y. S., Min, J., Song, E. Y., Ok, J. H., Lim, C.,… Kim, J. S. (2017). Development and validation of a nursing professionalism evaluation model in a career ladder system. PloS One, 12(10), 1-14.