One definition of a professional is, according to Merriam-Webster.com, “4 a: a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation”. The initial movement towards establishment of professional standards for nursing care began with Florence Nightingale and the application of scientific method. Prior to the work done by Nightingale, the term “nurse” applied to any and all who were charged with providing care to the ill regardless of ability. Nightingale advocated for nurses trained in observational skills informed by a unique body of knowledge (Black, 2014). Through the ensuing decades, various nursing theorists have contributed towards the expansion of that unique body of knowledge.
The basic preparation required to enter the profession of nursing, through licensure, may be obtained at the baccalaureate, associates, or diploma level of education. This allows the novice nurse to gain further experience prior to pursuing further education. There are pathways to higher education, such as Master’s and Doctoral programs, to prepare the practitioner for roles in advanced practice, research, or in academia (ANA, 2010).
Nursing is regulated by legislation, requiring licensure and establishing parameters within which the individual may practice. The stated mission of the Ohio Board of Nursing is to, “actively safeguard the health of the public through the effective regulation of nursing care”. Nursing is also guided by professional organizations, such as the American Nurses Association. The ANA regularly publishes various materials, including Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice, to guide the nursing profession (ANA, 2010).
As with other professions, Nursing has a code of ethics to guide practice and professional behaviors (ANA, 2010). The essence of nursing is providing care and advocacy for patients who are unable to care for themselves. Accountability, autonomy, and service are all components necessary to the profession of nursing.
How do the ANA Scope and Standards inform the profession of nursing and your clinical practice?
Unlike the layperson, the professional nurse is guided by and held accountable to standards of practice. According to the ANA’s Scope and Standards of Practice (2010), “Registered nurses are accountable for their professional actions to themselves, their healthcare consumers, their peers, and ultimately to society” (p. 10). In the overview of content, the ANA defines how it’s Scope and Standards of Practice informs the profession of nursing, “…outlines the expectations of the professional role of the registered nurse. It states the scope of practice and presents the standards of professional nursing practice and their accompanying competencies.” (ANA, 2010, p. xvii).
Combined with regulatory bodies that govern nursing, the ANA’s Scope and Standards provides the framework for which we work within as registered nurses. This work is useful for reference to all nurses, regardless of area of practice, to ensure that we are within the bounds of our profession when making clinical judgments.