NURS 1511 Profession hood and Knowledge of Nursing

 Is Nursing a Discipline and/or Profession?
The foundation of nursing is that nurses bring their humanness to a caring practice in which each nurse intentionally chooses how to be a nurse and how to be in interaction with others. At its essence, nursing is about connections and relationships. It is essential to consider what it means for nursing to be a discipline and/or profession. In order to maintain what nursing is and should be, we must remember the disciplinary foundation of nursing. It is about “being with” people who need the help of a nurse.

I believe that nursing is both a discipline and a profession. However, I think that in our current health care contexts, nurses are at risk for forgetting their disciplinary foundation – they risk losing the essence of what nursing is or should be. The main driving force for this risk are factors within the nurse and environment or within the interaction between nurses and their environments that shift the focus away from the basics of nursing toward a technical view of the human experience in health and illness. Prioritizing the technical aspects of care, tasks, and the technology used in care to the exclusion of what it means to be human and human connections do not reflect the essence of what “nursing is”. Rather, such focus reflects in part what nurses frequently do.

Nursing as a Discipline
Nursing is distinct from other disciplines. Yet, even nurses are not always able to articulate answers to the question of “What is nursing?” This was evident to me in a mental health organization when nurses were asked, “what is mental health nursing?” Their responses often focused on nursing tasks and duties in an effort to show how nursing was distinct from other disciplines. However, many of the tasks mentioned could potentially be done by other staff. Interestingly, patients’ responses when asked about nursing, were more reflective of the essence of nurses. They spoke about ways that nurses were with them and listened that made a difference to their care and recovery. If nurses are challenged in articulating nursing, how can nurses demonstrate to society that nursing is important or even essential. Therefore, nurses must understand and article what nursing is?


Nursing is a complex discipline that requires much more than being competent at technical skills. Despite the need for and importance of technical competency, such competency is not sufficient. Below are some ideas about how nursing meets the requirements of a discipline. As you progress through this course and the nursing program, I hope you will re-visit these ideas to enhance your understanding of what nursing is.

A clear disciplinary foundation is required to guide development of the nursing profession. Without this disciplinary foundation for knowledge and practice to guide the profession, nursing can easily be pressured to conform to a technical view of human experiences. This technical view contrasts with nursing’s disciplinary worldview that includes unity of mind, spirit and body.

Nursing as a Profession
The nursing profession needs the disciplinary foundation for knowledge and practice in order to flourish and succeed, and at the same time nursing deserves the recognition that is attributed by people in society to a profession. The ways in which a profession is defined are different from those of a discipline and a profession is more than simply a job. In general, professional nursing (e.g., RN) is differentiated from practical nursing (e.g., Registered

Practical Nurse [RPN] in Ontario) through advanced educational requirements and a more complex scope of practice.

Though there are various categories that could be used when considering if a job or a discipline is also a profession, the following five categories are a useful fit for nursing.

Institutions of Higher Education
A profession must have a clear educational pathway into the practice and a constantly growing body of knowledge within institutions of higher learning; it also has the pedagogical goal of providing students with the practical knowledge and theoretical basis to deliver safe and effective health care as integral members of the inter-professional healthcare team.

Nursing as a profession is constantly expanding its  scope of practice and challenging its workforce to continue its education, e.g.,

Autonomy of Practice
One specific quality of a profession is that, under legislative approval, a profession operates independently in creating policy and it supervises its own professional standards and the practices of its practitioners. Autonomy is evident in nursing, e.g., in Ontario:

Adherence to an Established Code of Ethics

Expansion of the Level of Knowledge

Common Culture and Values Present Among Members
A common culture and values is evident within a profession. One way to develop and maintain a nursing culture and to strive to ensure similar values across members of a profession is to develop and enforce professional standards, e.g.,


A culture of caring that encompasses the set of norms including altruism, excellence, caring, ethics, respect, communication, and accountability is important within the nursing profession.