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Pavalko's Characteristics of Nursing

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Ronald M. Pavalko is a social theorist whose body of work includes books on the psychological issues of addictive gambling, as well as pieces on wider social issues affecting the modern world. It is his work on professions, published in 1988, that we can use to apply to nursing. In this work, Pavalko outlines eight characteristics that form the cornerstone of a profession, including the profession of nursing.

A Profession Has Relevance to Social Value

In relation to nursing, this characteristic focuses on the altruistic roots of nursing and its value in providing a service to others. It also encompasses the impact on community and society as a whole that the promotion of health and well-being has. This is where the social value of nursing is derived from.

A Profession Has a Training or Educational Period

Registered nurses receive training and education at three different levels; diploma, associated prepared nurse and baccalaureate prepared nurse. This multilateral educational structure is one of the characteristics of the nursing profession. Without it, a nurse would be unable to do his job correctly.

Self-Motivation Addresses How a Profession Serves Society

As part of a nurse’s profession, she must be self-motivated to ensure that she and her colleagues are doing the best possible job. This is exemplified by the political activities that nurses have been involved in, in terms of healthcare reform.

A Profession Has a Code of Ethics

Nursing has a strong and clear code of ethics, which provide the bedrock of the nursing profession. The Nursing Code of Ethics, first published by the American Nursing Association in the 1950s, has undergone many revisions to reflect the ephemeral nature of a nurse’s work. This code provides nurses with a concise point of reference for their profession.

A Professional Has a Commitment to Lifelong Work

As nursing is a profession rather than a job or a route into other work, nurses are expected to approach it in a committed way. Whether or not all nurses view their profession in this vocational way is debatable; however, what is true is that the positive and altruistic aspects of nursing do require a major commitment from individual nurses.

Members Control Their Profession

While nurses are governed by regulatory bodies that act as checks and balances on their competence and conduct, fully trained nurses are awarded considerable professional autonomy in their practice. In addition to this, such governmental bodies of nursing are elected and run democratically. Finally, the different reforms over the years instigated by action from nurses is representative of their control over their profession.

A Profession Is Based on a Theoretical Framework

As with other professions, nursing is based on theories borrowed from other disciplines and applied to nursing. This is an example of nursing taking advantage of scientific and intellectual advancement. However, specialist nursing theorists have also made significant additions to the framework of the nursing profession.

A Profession Has a Common Identity

Although American nurses no longer wear nursing caps and pins, there is still a strong identity among professional nurses. This strong identity builds up a culture of respect amongst nurses for each other and outsiders for nurses and nursing. This is intrinsic to the profession of nursing.


Julia Salgado has been writing professionally since 2007. Her work has been published by the "Manchester Evening News" and "Q Magazine." Salgado holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Manchester Metropolitan University.

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