Principles of Professional Nursing

Professional education and registration

To become a qualified nurse you must be accepted to study at university for a three or four year degree. This education programme is theory and placement based. There is also another route people can take if they have the experience but not all of the qualifications, this is college for a year for then onto university for two years. Nursing students must be fit for practice and be able to demonstrate the requirements of their education.

To register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) you need to be able to carry out competences to state that they meet the required skills to be able to practice professionally and safely. NMC (2008) states that you have to recognise your own limits when working and not to practice anything you are not competent in without supervision. However to become a Social Worker requires studying for three years for an undergraduate degree or a two year postgraduate degree. The Social Workers register is “function based” rather than qualification based.

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Social Workers must be performing a role rather than hold a specific qualification to be on the register (SSSC, 2011). Social Workers can also be employed before they finish their training. This is very different from Nursing as the requirements to register with the NMC are for you to have completed 2300 hours of clinical practice and 2300 hours of theory based learning. Background disclosure checks are taken before you are accepted to study for either profession.

Principles of care professionals

The principles of both codes are almost identical in protecting and promoting the rights, choices and beliefs of the patient and service user.

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NMC (2008) states that the principles of the care professional must consists of providing a high standard of care, acting with integrity, upholding your professionalism, protecting and promoting the health of those in your care and to be open and honest. SSSC (2009) states that Social Workers need to recognise individual differences, being aware of people’s rights, listening to people, sharing power, respecting privacy and dignity and helping the users make informed choices.

Codes of conduct

Nurses and Social Workers both look after vulnerable people and are regulated by codes of conduct to ensure the patient and service user are getting the best possible care. The Nursing and Midwifery code of conduct exists to set standards, promote education, provide guidance and to set rules that we must adhere to (NMC, 2008). “We exist to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the public” (NMC, 2008, p1). NMC (2008) states that nurses and midwives must treat every patient as an individual, to be open and kind, respect their dignity and their wishes regarding their care and treatment. The patients and public must be able to trust in nurses to provide a high standard of care, to act lawfully, uphold their professional reputation, be approachable and make the care of the patient their first and primary concern. The SSSC Code of Practice are standards that protect the public and deliver the best possible care to the service users.

Vulnerable adults, children and older people rely on the professional skills of the Social Worker who must protect and promote the rights of the service user, respect each person as an individual, be trustworthy and honest, never to put themselves or others at risk and behave in a way inside and outside of work that would not question their good character (SSSC, 2009).

Continuing Professional Development

Both these professions expect the same high standards when it comes to education and training. Nursing and Social Work both have requirements for continued professional development and lifelong learning. It is essential that Nurses and Social workers keep a record of their training throughout their careers. To be able to remain working and practicing as a nurse or a midwife you must keep your skills and knowledge up to date through lifelong learning. This requires that nurses complete 450 hours of registered practice along with 35 hours of learning activities every three years along with the annual fee of £100. Medicines, treatments and equipment are continuously changing so it’s important that nurses keep up to date to ensure that patients are getting the best available care.

“You must take part in appropriate learning and practice activities that maintain and develop you competence and performance” (NMC, 2008 p6). Social Worker’s must undertake “relevant training to maintain and improve your knowledge and skills and contributing to the learning and development of others” (SSSC, 2009 section 6.8). The requirement of continued learning is fifteen days which can consist of courses, reading and training. Five of these days is focused on working with colleges and other healthcare professionals. Social Workers must register with the SSSC every three years and pay an annual fee of £30.

Framework for clinical governance within the healthcare sector Clinical Governance are codes which sets out best practice and benchmarks of care that everybody must adhere to throughout the UK. NHS and SSSC organisations are accountable to clinical governance for continuously keeping an eye on their employees to ensure that high standards of care is given. Clinical governance does not only focus on patients care but also quality improvements, leadership, information and staff focus. Focusing on these elements insure that high standards is being met and past mistakes are not repeated (RNC 2013).

Ethical issues and professional boundaries

Nurses and Social Workers face ethical issues everyday throughout their working lives and they are educated to understand these. Professionals must be sure to never judge other peoples morals, values, religious or cultural beliefs and individual choices. Professionals also need to have an understanding of social diversity and oppression with mental health, disability, race and colour. The two schools of ethics which are important for professionals are Deontology and Teleology. Deontology highlights that laws and rules govern behaviour and people should keep them out of duty to society however this duty can be challenged if someone’s personal beliefs are in conflict with duties that’s being asked of them. Teleology discusses that the greater good for the greater number is more important than the action. For example euthanasia would be classed as deonotolgy as euthanasia is regarded as murder or manslaughter and would be punishable under law whereas teleology would see it as ending unbearable suffering for the greater good (NHS choices, 2012).

It is essential to keep up to date with current discussions, trends and debates as this enables professionals to make informed decisions based on objectively rather than their emotions. Nurses and Social Workers must keep clear professional boundaries at all times with patients under their care by refusing gifts, favours, to give and receive money, hospitality, and to maintain clear sexual boundaries at all times.

Parameters that occur within professional practice

Nurses, Midwives and Social Workers are all responsible and professionally accountable to their employer and are also accountable in law for their actions as people rely on them. They are not only accountable for their own actions but also the students under their supervision. If any of these professionals breach any term of their job description then they must be accountable and to be able to explain their actions. “As a professional, you are personally accountable for actions and omissions in your practice, and must always be able to justify your decisions” (NMC, 2008 p2). SSSC (2009) states that you must meet the required standards of practice, work in a lawful, safe effective way.

Professionals must be responsible for knowing their own limitations and abilities within their practice and must not carry out tasks they are not competent in. They must not practice anything they are not competent in and if it hasn’t been signed off (NMC, 2008). SSSC (2009) states that must seek assistance if Social Worker’s feel they cannot carry out any aspect of your work.

Professionals must refer to another member of the multidisciplinary team when it’s in the best interest of their patients and service users. Professionals must recognise and respect the roles of other professionals and work in partnership with them to ensure the best possible care is given.

The role of a professional supervisor is to oversee training and to agree that you are competent in that task. New employees go through an induction, training and supervision. Students and newly qualified staff receive a mentor to guide them through their learning. “You must make sure that everyone you are responsible for is supervised and supported” (NMC, 2008 p5). SSSC (2009) states that Employers have a key role in supporting students and newly qualified Social Workers as this is to meet the requirements with the Post Registration Training and Learning (PRTL) and ensure staff feel supported.


Both professions are similar in the way they look after and support their patients and service users. Therefore are regulated by similar codes of conduct and expect the same high standards of care, education and training.


  1. NHS choices (2012) Euthanasia and assisted suicide. Available at: Accessed on 26/11/13
  2. NMC (2008) The Code: Standards of conduct, performance and ethics for nurses and midwives. London: Nursing and Midwifery Council
  3. RNC (2013) Clinical governance. Available at: Accessed on 26/11/13
  4. SSSC (2009) Codes of Practice for Social Service Workers and Employers. Dundee: Scottish Social Services Council.
  5. SSSC (2011) What is Registration? Available at: Accessed on: 26/10/13
Updated: Jul 06, 2022
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Principles of Professional Nursing. (2016, Mar 02). Retrieved from

Principles of Professional Nursing essay
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