August 06, 2009 | | Comments 0
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Managers’ role in promoting a professional image

We all try to shape up our physical appearance at one time or another. Or we may make an internal change in our personal attitude that eventually reflects on the outside with a positive change in body language or tone of voice.

Our actions—or lack of action—appearance, voice inflection, and ability to convey empathy and concern all play a role in our image. There are four categories we can focus on when considering as image makeover:

  1. Professional work environment and interactions
  2. Appearance
  3. Collegiality/team member role
  4. Professional accountabilities

Nurses in various areas of the profession—nursing departments, nursing individuals at all levels and practice, nurse faculty, and nursing students—can select a category and develop a program that reshapes their image at the individual or group level.

For instance, when making changes to professional work environment and interactions, remember:

  • Do not carry on a discussion in the nurses’ station that you would not want others to hear
  • Respect the equipment you work with and handle it as if you paid for it out of your own paycheck
  • Support other nurses who are being approached unprofessionally
  • Do not display any behaviors or gestures in view of coworkers, patients, or families that you would not want seen or heard

Managers can set expectations for professional appearance and should never forget to set a good example. Share with your staff these points:

  • Dress for the respect you feel you deserve
  • Follow your organizational dress code policies and procedures
  • Recognize that your appearance affects perceptions of your competency
  • Differentiate yourself in dress from the unlicensed members of your healthcare team

The stresses of the profession are minimized when nurses are able to care for patients in a collegial, supportive environment, where everyone is striving to provide the highest-quality patient care and deliver the best possible patient outcomes. Set expectations that your staff members will:

  • Proactively offer to assist other members of the team to demonstrate team commitment
  • Actively become involved in the orientation process of all new staff
  • Not allow someone else’s unacceptable behavior to become their own behavior
  • Be open to constructive criticism and feedback

Finally, managers should encourage their staff to hold themselves accountable to high standards as well. Remember to:

  • Acknowledge that it is your name on the license, not your manager’s or your organization’s
  • Maintain a current knowledge of your nurse practice act
  • Belong to and support at least one professional nursing organization
  • Document appropriately and according to nursing standards of practice

Source: Shelley Cohen, RN, BS, CEN. The Image of Nursing: Perspectives on Shaping, Empowering, and Elevating the Nursing Profession.

Entry Information

Filed Under: Image of nursing


Rebecca Hendren About the Author: Rebecca Hendren is product manager for the nursing group at HCPro, where she oversees new product development focused on training and education resources for nurse managers and nursing professional development specialists. Contact Rebecca at

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