From the staff development bookshelf: One profession, many images: It starts at the top

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, December 2, 2011

As with many things in healthcare, what happens at the top is a reflection of how things are at the patient care level. When nurse leaders or managers arrive for work looking like they just rolled out of bed, why should staff think their appearance is important? You can have all the dress codes you want, but if leadership is not complying or holding others accountable, the impact is in the reflection. This also holds true for other elements related to image and professionalism. We need our nurse leaders to role-model the image, to set the tone, to walk and talk what is acceptable.

When you hear a nurse leader use foul language at a staff meeting or verbally berate the Board of Nursing for a standard, we have a problem "We" is the staff, patients and their families, and the rest of the healthcare team. A nurse manager I have worked with not only ensures she has a clean set of neat scrubs in her office should the need arise, she holds all staff accountable. If your name is on your nursing license, then this manager expects you to comply with your state practice act as well as to demonstrate yourself as a professional. Another nurse manager I know violates organizational smoking policies, does not meet the dress code requirements, and when new staff reveal less than professional interactions, they are told to "get over it." Like it or not, the reality is that we have a wide variability amongst our nurse leaders and their image. You have a very short period of time for staff to figure out who you are; first impressions always have and always will make a difference.

Source: Book excerpt adapted from The Image of Nursing: Perspectives on Shaping, Empowering, and Elevating the Nursing Profession by Shelley Cohen, RN, MSN, CEN, and Kathleen Bartholomew, RN, MN.

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