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Values and Professional Identity in Nursing

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    Values are inner guides, faiths and decisive factors which mould in a person’s behaviours and attitudes and also impact personal features. Values are also related to moral rules and are effective upon one’s goals (Mintz, 2018). This means, the values are influential in the profession chosen by the person and naturally, they are the determinants of professional values as well. Establishing professional values in a profession may enhance the reputation and service quality of that profession. Therefore, nurses and nursing students should understand and assimilate the values well and then seek for ways and methods to develop a professional identity in the nursing. To clarify, nurses may fully adapt and interpret personal and professional values such as integrity, honesty, responsibility, competence and accountability and these values may reflect on nursing practices appropriately. Thus they may provide high-quality healthcare services by developing the desired level of professional identity. Through exploring these values, this essay will discuss their importance in the nursing profession and how to improve professional identity.

    First of all, a person’s character traits and environmental factors are very effective in the formation of individual values and these values also affect professionalism. Personal attributes predominantly influence an individual’s values such as truthfulness, impatience, reliability, capability and rigour. Furthermore, experiences from a person’s past, personal priorities, cultural beliefs and needs are the underlying elements in building blocks of individual values; perspectives and comments on health and illnesses are also other forceful factors. Likewise, socio-cultural situations, environments, education and training level, as well as economic factors, play an effective role in shaping personal values. Therefore, these factors are impacted by family upbringing (Kaya & Boz, 2019). Personal beliefs and values can reflect in one’s professional values; for example, integrity, trust, responsibility, accuracy in caring, competency (Schmidt et al, 2018), and human relationships; can impact the professional identity of a registered nurse.

    One of these nursing values is the integrity which is a core value that creates efficient interpersonal relationships and it requires loyalty to high moral values and principles (Heathfield, 2019). Moreover, it nourishes one’s self-esteem and requires personal and professional endeavour to maintain ethical attitudes and adherence to these standards of behaviour in all circumstances. It has been stated that integrity is a very strong character trait when displayed in front of patients, their relative and all workmates, as these traits are a reflection in an exemplary nurse (BOS Medical, 2016). According to the public survey conducted by the American Nurses Association, integrity took first place in the ranking for values explored in nursing; it has been expressed that professional integrity is a genuine and sacred element of trust in nurses and increases the respect for nurses in society (Iacono, 2019). Equally, the letters of appreciation sent from the patients are an indication of how important integrity is in the workforce (Iacono, 2019). Another study has shown that integrity has been ranked as the most important professional value among Registered Nurses and the Bachelor of Science Nursing students (Koomey et al., 2015). Nurses may face many difficulties throughout their professional lives, for instance, over time and excessive workload due to lack of staff. Integrity is an intrinsic motivation source for a nurse, even in these harsh circumstances and while coping with these difficulties, it is as an ethical compass, even without anyone noticing it (BOS Medical, 2016). Integrity is very extensive and includes many characteristic elements such as honesty, accountability, responsibility, and competency (Schmidt et al, 2018).

    It appears these characteristics and professional values are very remarkable factors that format unique attributes on the profession of nursing. The American Nurses Association (ANA) has created and announced some representative codes to serve as a guide to nurses of the quality of nursing care and responsibilities and obligations within the profession. In 2015, ANA reviewed the effects of these codes on patient care and safety and has declared 2015 as ethics’ year (American Nurses Association [ANA], n.d.). Firstly, honesty is a significant and meaningful value. Patients trust nurses because they are aware that their nurses really and sincerely want the best for them, so they may share more personal information with the nurse than their doctors (BOS Medical, 2016). They know that if they need anything their nurse can be helpful at their bedside, even if they cannot solve the problem, they certainly will listen to them (Qlicksmart, 2019). According to a survey of people over the age of 14 in Australia in 2017, nurses were identified as the most trusted occupational group in terms of ethics and honesty (Morgan, 2017). Nurses consume time (Lampert, 2016) responding to questions and ensuring mental assistance; thus, the reliance and respect of patients and their relatives enhance. The sustainability of this deep-rooted trust is provided by keeping the patient in the centre, protecting their interests, encouraging them to communicate for their well-being. Moreover, nurses always show compassion in sickness and health, by following ethical rules (Larson, 2017). Eventually, these sacrifices build a solid sense of trust. Secondly, acting with a sense of accountability and responsibility, nurses are aware of what is expected of them and respond to these expectations professionally. Responsibility develops accountability, which means to sustain security and implementations in workplace surroundings (Davis, 2017), and is reflected in their practices, so it acts as a motor force to ensure that the right things are done by the nurses. Thirdly, a nurse should have sufficient knowledge and critical thinking skills for professional competence and reflect these skills on their behaviour. Professional values and interpretation capability allows a nurse to apply what they know in every situation and under different conditions, thus the nurse can illustrate professional competence (Fukada, 2018). In brief, nurses have the necessary skills for public health.

    Additionally, the International Council of Nurses has emphasised that the nursing profession includes the ability to protect and care for human health individually and socially for people of all age groups (Al-Banna, 2017). Another research indicates that nurses who have recently graduated and work at the Emergency Management Center for Cardiac Surgery and Rizgary Teaching Hospital in Erbil, Iraq, it has been determined that 88% of nurses have sufficient personal and professional values related to the profession, and these values significantly influence the health care skills of nurses (Al-Banna, 2017). Consequently, developing professional values is a notable issue that should be accentuated in the nursing education process (Poorchangizi et al., 2019).

    Importantly, the proficiency of professional values and the development of professional identity are very precious matters in providing quality and advanced health care in nursing from the education period onwards. It is very noteworthy that there is a connection between the creation of a powerful professional identity before starting the profession and obtaining superior nursing practices and job satisfaction in the future (Browne et al., 2018). With this intention, the improvement of professional identity is a necessary result of undergraduate education in nursing; professional values can be developed through education, clinical practices and experiences, although they are of individual and social origin (Elliott, 2017). Moreover, higher education is a significant phase in terms of the acquirement of critical thinking and researching abilities (Rosser at al., 2019). Similarly, in research conducted at City, the University of London, it was expressed that positive role models, sense of belonging and self-confidence, peer support and critical thinking skills are effective key factors in nursing students’ professional identity development (Nursing Times, 2019). Therefore, academic staff and lecturers are positive role models in the eyes of students and students evaluate them as credible sources. Meanwhile, the feeling of belonging, self-confidence and critical thinking skills develop through practical applications and clinical placements as well as theoretical lectures (Nursing Times, 2019).

    Alternatively, in-service training programs are noticeably useful in professional identity formation and aim to increase personal and professional values. This increment causes high-quality health care services, job satisfaction and contentment of patients. In this regard, nurse administrators have great obligations, because their guidance and practices raise motivation and awareness (Kaya & Boz, 2019). Otherwise, when nurses are unconscious about their personal and professional values, they can face challenges to grasp their professional identities, even more, they may not be able to ensure care in line with personal selections and necessities (Kaya & Boz, 2019). Besides, professional values include codes of conduct, norms, and certain standards. With this in mind professional identity requires constant learning, seeking quality, a sense of service and a dedication to professional values (Kaya & Boz, 2019). The development is also related to the concept of self and healthy mood and people who are aware of their professional values, roles and priorities may be more satisfactory and they also tend to be open and enthusiastic to lifelong learning and change (University of Kansas Medical Center, 2020). The purpose of lifelong learning is to reach ones’ full potential and work towards being a role model in nursing (Rosser et al., 2019). As a result, the professional development of nurses continues at every stage of life, for instance, in education, work and personal life.

    In conclusion, nurses should recognise their individual and professional values, be aware of their weaknesses and strengths; they should be eager to create a professional identity by being open to change and development throughout their lives. In such cases, comprehending and embracing professional values lead to commitment, dedication and hence job satisfaction. Such an exemplary nurse can think critically, solve problems and maintain excellent health care services to their patients. It also seems that educators and health authorities have great duties and obligations towards nursing students in establishing a high level of professional identity. Furthermore, training programs and activities of health institutions can be considered beneficial and worthy.

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