Academic journal article Online Journal of Issues in Nursing

Nursing at Its Best: Competent and Caring

Academic journal article Online Journal of Issues in Nursing

Nursing at Its Best: Competent and Caring

Article excerpt


An award-winning journalist spoke to a group of students during their first month in a baccalaureate nursing program, challenging the nursing profession to abandon its image of nurses as angels and promote an image of nurses as competent professionals who are both knowledgeable and caring. This presentation elicited an unanticipated level of emotion, primarily anger, on the part of the students. This unexpected reaction prompted faculty to explore the students' motivations for entering the nursing profession and their perceptions of the relative importance of competence and caring in nursing. The authors begin this article by reviewing the literature related to motivations for selecting a profession and the contributions of competence and caring to nursing care. Next they describe their survey method and analysis and report their findings regarding student motivations and perceptions of competence and caring in nursing. Emerging themes for motivation reflected nursing values, especially altruism, and coincided with students' beliefs of self-efficacy and goal attainment. Student responses indicated their understanding of the need for competence and revealed idealistic perceptions of caring. The authors conclude with a discussion of these themes and recommendations for student recruitment, curricular emphasis, and future research in this area.

Citation: Rhodes, M., Morris, A., Lazenby, R. (February 25, 2011) "Nursing at its Best: Competent and Caring" OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing Vol. 16 No. 2.

DOI: 10.3912/OJIN.Vol16No02PPT01

Keywords: nursing profession, nursing shortage, competence, caring, motivation, image of nursing, nursing education, altruism, nursing values, self-efficacy, nursing student recruitment

The image of nursing is changing. Images of angels in starched skirts and nursing caps eagerly awaiting guidance from physicians has long since been replaced by images of competent, independent men and women of diverse backgrounds. Yet iconic images in nursing may continue to play a role in choosing a career. For example, individuals may choose nursing because they identify with certain nursing role models, such as Florence Nightingale, the lady with the lamp, who cared for soldiers in the Crimean War and changed the status of nurses in the 19th century. Newer images, such as those of competent and caring nurses, can also attract new members to the profession. This study explored students' motivation(s) for entering nursing and perceptions of the importance of competence and caring in nursing.

An award-winning journalist spoke to a group of students during their first month of a baccalaureate program at a southeastern school of nursing in the United States (US). These students were junior level in college and beginning their nursing courses. Faculty selected this speaker with the goal of increasing both student awareness of iconic and current images associated with nursing and student recognition that nursing is a cognitively challenging discipline. The faculty wanted the students to gain an informed consumer's perspective on the importance of nurses and to create their own personal philosophies of nursing. The speaker, who was not a nurse, focused on the importance of making the public aware of both the competencies (knowledge and skill) of registered nurses (RNs) and the caring component of nursing. She emphasized the essential work of nurses, and noted that the public remains less familiar with the competencies needed by today's nurses than with the angelic image of nurses who put the needs of others before those of their own health and careers. Students responded with an unanticipated degree of emotion, primarily anger. Some students verbalized that nursing is a ?calling.' They took offense that a ?non-nurse' had the audacity to say that nurses should consider relinquishing the image of "angels in white" and demand recognition for their work.

Student comments regarding the presentation suggested to the faculty that many of the students believed the most important attribute for a nurse was the ability to provide compassionate care. …

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