The traditional stereotypical image of a nurse is closely linked to that of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, who established a training system for nurses to teach them how to be completely dedicated to the taskes of care regardless of personal needs; dependent on and deferential to authorities such as medical doctors and matron supervisors; and modest and feminine. Of course, contemporary nursing is no longer a profession exclusive to females, and nor does nursing work predominantly involve dependent actions. However, these old ideas remain strong in the minds of the public and are often repeated in popular culture.
As a society, we generally expect those working in professional roles to be 'professional', but this term is difficult to define. What does it actually mean to be professional? How can students develop their personal sense of self, and how might this interact with their professional identify and performance? This chapter explains self-awareness and the importance of understanding your own values, beliefs and motivations, which in turn will assist you to better understand the unique experiences and 'world-views' of others, and to develop and nurture the therapeutic and professional relationships that are essential for successful nursing practice.