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At Work

5 Steps to Achieve Professionalism

Show that you have respect for your employer, coworkers and yourself.

When an individual is preparing for a job interview or a meeting with a person or group of people from upper management, they tend to show great professionalism to those individuals at that time. But people do not always practice it on a daily basis within their workplace.

Professionalism can be shown in many different ways, including dressing appropriately, showing respect toward others and not shying away from learning experiences. The following five steps to becoming a professional can be simple and yet make a great impact on your image:

Look the part. A professional should always dress appropriately for her position because a person's image lets people know how serious they are about their work. Practicing proper hygiene is a step that includes having hair managed, fingernails clipped, and avoiding heavy colognes or perfumes. WHO and CDC have different requirement for artificial nails in that the WHO does not allow artificial nails and nail extenders, but the CDC's guidelines require only providers within high risk areas to not have artificial nails.1 The requirements for artificial nails and fingernail lengths will depend on which organization's guidelines your facility follows.

Perfumes and colognes should be avoided at all times because strong scents can cause a physical reaction in a person with asthma or allergies. Non-scented soaps and shampoo should also be used.

Grammar is essential. The use of proper grammar should be practiced in memos, e-mails and procedures. Communicating to coworkers, physicians and patients by writing notes or messages is becoming more common, and not using proper grammar can frustrate or confuse the recipient of the note.

Departments run much smoother when the procedures are well written and easy to follow.

Proper grammar should also be used when communicating verbally; using slang or improper grammar can undermine the confidence coworkers and patients have in your abilities.

Tasks and challenges should be approached head on. Individuals who want to show professionalism accept tasks because they want to succeed and grow within their fields.They should embrace these duties as education opportunities and use the techniques they learn to educate others.

Show respect toward others. People that show respect toward others are themselves more approachable, which is important when people are seeking guidance. Hospitals are generally broken up into sections and can be compared to a machine. When each section performs their role properly, the whole machine works smoothly and better patient outcomes are produced.

Respecting others may be a hard phase of professionalism for some in that people may not always see eye to eye or get along, but the main goal clinicians should strive toward is producing quality results for patients.

Accepting accountability for mishaps or mistakes. Professionals hold themselves accountable for their own mistakes. Many hospitals use a barcode system to cut down on human error, but there will always be some errors that occur. An individual that possesses professionalism learns and grows from their mistakes to make a more cautious employee.

Practice professionalism on a daily basis so people have confidence and respect for you and your work. Health care professionals can review these five steps to evaluate their current level of professionalism and identify the areas that need improvement.

The professionalism shown at work should also be practiced in your personal life, because people do take note of how others act in public. Your peers will take note of your professionalism - and that is the type of publicity that everyone should want.

Cara Jansa is generalist at Hendrick Medical Center, Abilene, TX. Wade Redman is an assistant professor at Texas Tech University School of Allied Health Sciences, Lubbock, TX.


  1. The Joint Commission. Hand hygiene. Available at: Last accessed July 5, 2011.

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