In 2022, the results of a Gallup poll ranked nursing as the most trusted profession in the United States, a position it has held for more than 20 years. That same year, resume assistance platform Zety found that nursing was one of only seven professions that 80% or more of Americans had high or very high respect for.

Performing their jobs with professionalism is a key component of how nurses build — and maintain — this trust and respect, not only among the public but also among their patients and colleagues. In nursing, professionalism can be the difference between a collaborative team providing top-quality care and an uncoordinated group whose work is prone to mistakes.

The importance of professionalism makes it a core component of nursing education programs, including those for associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees for registered nurses (RNs), and master’s degrees.

But what is professionalism in nursing? What skills does it require? And how can nurses strengthen those competencies?

What Is Professionalism in Nursing?

Professionalism in any profession emphasizes accountability, integrity, and responsibility. In nursing, professionalism refers to any behavior that exhibits a commitment to providing high-quality care and adhering to strict ethics standards. 

Professionalism in nursing is what’s behind a positive attitude and respect for others. Among the characteristics of nursing professionalism are:

  • Altruism — Acting in a way that puts patients’ needs first
  • Accountability — Taking responsibility for one’s decisions, and offering solutions when errors occur
  • Autonomy — Applying professional knowledge to make decisions about patient care
  • Caring — Providing a sympathetic ear to patients and loved ones facing healthcare challenges and decisions
  • Collaboration — Working with patients, families, and colleagues to ensure accurate and timely treatment
  • Courage — Overcoming one’s fears to manage difficult tasks and decisions when working with patients and colleagues 

Some examples of workplace scenarios in which nurses can display professionalism include:

  • Working closely with other healthcare professionals, collaborating to ensure that patients receive the correct treatment in a timely manner
  • Talking openly to patients and their loved ones, communicating clearly what the patients’ healthcare options are and offering answers to all of their questions and concerns
  • Staying abreast of evidence-based clinical practices, and pursuing career advancement by taking advantage of educational and training opportunities

Why Professionalism in Nursing Is Important

Professionalism holds special importance in nursing, a role in which an employee’s actions can have a significant impact on another person’s well-being. 

A 2023 analysis published in BMC Nursing describes the links between professionalism and both better patient care and enhanced productivity and morale among staff. When nurses exhibit professionalism, they are adhering to the highest standards of care, which provides the following benefits to patients, other medical professionals, and nurses themselves:

  • Streamlining healthcare processes through open and clear communication and a commitment to high standards of care
  • Building trust and respect by offering solutions to healthcare colleagues and recognizing the needs of patients and their families
  • Advancing nurses’ careers by continuously learning and working to improve the quality of care they provide

Skills That Exemplify Professionalism in Nursing

Whether they are preparing for the future or already have a career in the field, nurses can develop some critical skills to enhance their professionalism, build trust, and earn respect. Following are among the skills that exemplify professionalism in nursing:

Attention to Detail

Nurses who provide the highest quality of care take an individualized approach to their patients and their patients’ treatments. They carefully monitor the details of each patient’s condition and note any changes. They also pay close attention to the type of treatment that each patient requires, ensuring that they administer medications and other interventions in the correct dosage and at the appropriate time.


Communication skills are a core component of professionalism in nursing. By clearly communicating with other nurses as well the rest of a patient’s healthcare team regarding a patient’s concerns and the care they are receiving, nurses can protect against errors that can arise from misunderstandings. 

Nurses also can gain the trust and respect of patients and their loved ones by explaining instructions and procedures in easy-to-understand language and in a way that recognizes and respects the patients’ cultural backgrounds.


Exhibiting professionalism as a nurse requires having compassion, providing emotional support, and serving as an advocate for patients with other healthcare professionals and in the community. Nurses must be skilled at listening to their patients and acknowledging the concerns of the patients and their families, treating them as they would want their own loved ones to be treated.


Leadership is an important skill for all nurses, not only those in a supervisory role. Any nurse who sets a positive example for others through their actions, such as by making quick decisions and taking responsibility for their choices, is exhibiting strong leadership qualities. 

For those who serve in advanced nursing roles, leadership can be exhibited by placing an emphasis on both providing high-quality care and letting team members know they play an important role within the healthcare organization.

How to Achieve Professionalism in Nursing

Aspiring and practicing nurses can learn and sharpen the skills that are indicators of professionalism, and nursing education plays an important role in this effort. Following are some actions that can help nurses achieve professionalism in their work:

Pursue Nursing Education

Nursing education programs — including associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs — focus on a variety of clinical skills associated with high-level patient care and professionalism. Those interested in becoming a nurse and those who want to advance their nursing career can benefit from educational programs that emphasize skills like:

  • Advocacy
  • Decision-making
  • Ethics
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork and collaboration

Engage in Networking

Networking can be valuable for those looking to strengthen their professionalism in nursing. Building relationships with fellow nurses and other healthcare providers can help nursing professionals learn from the experiences of others while also establishing important professional connections.

Join Professional Organizations

From the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing to the American Nurses Association, many professional nursing organizations offer programs that can assist nurses at all levels of their careers with skill development. Many of these organizations offer continuing education opportunities, including those associated with best practices in caring for patients with specific health conditions or patients belonging to certain populations.

Build the Skills Vital to Professionalism in Nursing

Whether you’re interested in starting a nursing career or you’re already a nurse but want to become qualified to pursue more advanced roles, you should consider enrolling in one of the nursing programs at the Denver College of Nursing. You can choose from four nursing programs, each of which caters to nurses at a different stage in their careers. All of these programs are designed to help students strengthen the skills that boost professionalism:

Find out how the Denver College of Nursing can help you build your skills and achieve your professional goals.

Recommended Readings
7 Tips to Polish Your LinkedIn Profile as a Nurse
Making a Difference in Texas as a Rural Healthcare Safety Net Provider Nurse
What Is a BSN Completion Program and How Does It Work?

American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Domain 9: Professionalism
BMC Nursing, “What Is Nursing Professionalism? A Concept Analysis”
Cliché Magazine, “How Can Nurses Improve Their Practice and Advance Their Careers?”
Gallup, “Nurses Retain Top Ethics Rating in U.S., but Below 2020 High”
Indeed Career Guide, “9 Ways to Demonstrate Your Professionalism in Nursing”
Indeed Career Guide, “15 Professional Nursing Organizations (With Certifications)”
Indeed Career Guide, “Guide to Professionalism in Nursing (Definition and Tips)”
Nursa, “Professionalism in Nursing: What It Is and Why It Matters”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses
U.S. Department of Labor, “Skills to Pay the Bills: Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success”
Zety, “Top Most-Respected Jobs 2022”