Professional Nursing: Concepts and Philosophy


Over the last decades, the nursing profession has seen the emergence of many new challenges. The widespread innovation of healthcare systems forced nurses to acquire new skills and knowledge. However, the foundations of nursing remain immutable; that is why nurses still need to realize the essence of their job. This paper examines fundamental concepts and philosophical issues related to nursing as well as includes the author’s personal view of the problem.

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The Main Concepts of Nursing

The Core Competencies for Healthcare Professionals

The essential qualities and skills of nurses are, in many ways, similar to the competencies of all healthcare workers. Thus, it might be easier to examine skills and knowledge that are valid for the entire healthcare sector. It is possible to divide these competencies into three main categories. Firstly, healthcare professionals must be able to provide their patients with high-quality medical treatment. This means that nurses and doctors should be real experts in their field of medicine. At the same time, all of them are obliged to be excellent communicators and leaders. This means being able to establish contact and relationships with patients as well as co-operate with other medical and administrative staff. Finally, healthcare workers should be able to acquire new knowledge and learn fast (Fukada, 2018). This is of particular importance in the modern world where skills and knowledge become obsolete very quickly. These qualities and skills do not exhaust all the competencies healthcare professionals have to possess but give the main idea of what a qualified nurse or doctor is.

Professional Characteristics of Nursing

In order to get a better understanding of what nursing is, it can be useful to study some specific characteristics of this profession. These characteristics, as formulated by the American Nurses Association, attempt to show the nature of nursing. The first feature is a specific wealth of knowledge that can be used by nurses in practice to solve daily problems. This means that professional nurses possess some tools they can use for caring about the patient. The second feature is the unified educational system which uses common methods of teaching and assessment and provides nurses with the same knowledge and skills. The third characteristic is a dedication to “providing a service that benefits individuals and the community” (Finkelman, 2017, p. 19). It means that nurses realize what is the main goal of their profession and are interested in achieving it. The fourth characteristic is the exceptional role of every nurse, which is reflected in the fact that all of them have their own rights and duties.

The fifth one is the ethical code which regulates the operations of nurses and determines their responsibility. This characteristic is especially crucial because it shows that professional nursing is a specific area of healthcare that has its own standards and norms. The last feature is a devotion of a nurse to other representatives of the profession and the membership in different specialized organizations. According to this characteristic, nursing is a whole community, members of which work together for achieving their goals.

Definition of Nursing

After the review of the main professional characteristics of nursing, it is possible to discuss the very definition of it. American Nurses Association gives a rather complex and rich description of nursing. This paper aims to extract and discuss the most critical aspects of this definition, namely “prevention of illness and injury,” “alleviation of suffering,” and “advocacy.” Each part of the definition is examined separately, and the author also reflects on her own experience.

Prevention of illness and injury

It is essential that the nurse not only seeks to provide patients with decent health care but also strives to prevent other diseases in the future. The author of the paper had an experience of working as a nurse and realized that she often sought to prevent her patients from potential illnesses. For instance, when she saw that some of her patients had habits that could affect their health severely, she tried to inform them about the possible consequences of their behavior. This can also be applied to the author’s family as she continually tries to ensure that her relatives are safe and do not ruin their health.

Alleviation of suffering

If the treatment seems impossible, nurses should try to mitigate the suffering of the patient. Emotional support is one of the main aspects of professional nursing, and every nurse has an individual approach to her patient. The author has understood that the process of alleviation and its outcomes largely depend on the person’s worldview, religion, and age. Thus, it is crucial that nurses understand this part of the definition and know how to apply it in different real situations.

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The concept of nursing advocacy might seem unclear because of the ambiguity of the term used. According to Gerber (2018), the role of the nurse as an advocate is to ascertain that “patients’ autonomy and self-determination are respected” (p. 56). The author of this paper wants to stress that advocacy is vital to unprivileged members of society since their rights are disregarded very often. Therefore, nurses need to tackle their prejudice among specific communities at all times and be impartial to their patients regardless of their race or sexual orientation.

Conscious Caring

Caring is the central concept of nursing as it directly addresses the main goal of the profession. It is possible to identify at least five caring practices that are essential for every nurse. Firstly, nurses need to fully devote themselves to the patient in order to achieve positive outcomes. Moreover, nurses should try to put themselves in the situation of the patient to understand their condition and feelings. Constant learning is essential in the sense that the patient needs to receive the best care with the use of the latest technologies and practices. In that context, it is the responsibility of nurses to stay relevant. Then, nurses ought to be emotionally involved in the process of treating their patients or, in other words, feel compassion. Finally, nurses must show confidence in everything they do, because any uncertainty can be easily transferred to the patient, which is undesirable.

The author of this paper can confirm from personal experience that it is crucial to consider the emotional condition of the patient. For instance, sometimes patients may have thoughts or anxiety which they do not want to express because they think that it might be considered inappropriate. However, the author tries to guess what the patient feels and raises this topic delicately. It is an important aspect of caring to ensure that the emotional condition of the patient is stable.

The Philosophy of Nursing

The Four Domains of Nursing Philosophy

At the end of the last century, Fawcett (1984) identified the four main domains, or meta paradigms, of nursing, which are still commonly used nowadays. These domains are the fundamental concepts of nursing. When someone is trying to build a personal philosophy of nursing, he or she always has to begin with one of these concepts. Thus, it is useful to examine each of these meta paradigms to understand which issues the philosophy of nursing addresses.

The domain of a person focuses on the patient receiving health support, members of his or her family, and their various needs. The reflection on this concept may address such issues as the rights of patients and the attitude of healthcare professionals to them. The environment metaparadigm concentrates on both the physical and social surroundings of the patient. This concept raises the question of the best conditions that are required for the successful treatment of the patient. The health metaparadigm relates to medical services that are delivered to the patient. Thus, it discusses what should be done to achieve the patient’s wellness. Finally, the nursing component focuses on the actions of nurses that are aimed at reaching the best patient outcomes. This paper has already discussed the core competencies of nursing professionals and the caring framework, which relate to this domain.

The Personal Philosophy of Nursing

This part of the paper aims to develop the author’s personal philosophy of nursing based on her work experience and self-reflection. The author has already presented her view of several aspects of professional nursing, but here some additional points are covered. The author believes that as a nurse, she represents patients’ advocate, and thus, has to focus primarily on their needs. The patient, with his demands and rights, is at the heart of the author’s philosophical system of nursing. Perhaps, it is more appropriate to say that not patients themselves but the process of caring about them is the foundation of nursing. Therefore, the personal philosophy of nursing reflects how nurses realize their role in this complicated process.

As it was discussed earlier, a nurse should fully devote herself to patients and do everything in her power to help them. The author believes that from a philosophical perspective, nursing is not just a professional activity but a calling instead. In order to successfully complete their mission, nurses are sometimes required to forget about such ordinary things as a career and personal life. When it comes to private life, the author also thinks that nurses cannot but extend their professional responsibilities to caring about relatives and loved ones. Sometimes it can lead to conflicts because they may feel they are being lectured. Nurses have to reconcile it stoically and remember that they sacrifice themselves for the good of patients. It seems that nursing philosophy is somewhat close to stoicism because humility and resilience are those qualities that help the author overcome the hardship of a nurse’s life.

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This paper conducted a comprehensive study of nursing and examined the main concepts of this phenomenon. After reviewing the essential competencies for all healthcare professionals and discussing the definition and characteristics of nursing, the main point of the profession has become apparent. However, only after the main features of caring have been determined, was it possible to proceed to the philosophical side of nursing. The author of the paper believes that caring about patients and complete devotion to them is the internal essence of nursing.


Fawcett, J. (1984). The metaparadigm of nursing: Present status and future refinements. The Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 16(3), 84-87.

Finkelman, A. (2017). Professional nursing concepts: Competencies for quality leadership (4th ed.). Berlington, MA: Jones & Barlett Learning.

Fukada, M. (2018). Nursing competency: Definition, structure and development. Yonago Acta Medica, 61(1), 1-7.

Gerber, L. (2018). Understanding the nurse’s role as a patient advocate. Nursing2019, 48(4), 55-58.

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