Fostering Professional Identity in Nursing

Rhoda A. Owens, PhD, RN; Nelda Godfrey, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, FAAN, ANEF


Am Nurs Journal. 2022;17(9) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction



  • All nurses should learn about professional identity in nursing and then model and apply it to their practice settings.

  • Fostering professional identity in nursing can improve nurse well-being, work retention and job satisfaction, and promote safe quality patient care.

  • Through their mission, values, and programs, healthcare systems and practice settings should stive to provide a workplace culture and environment that supports professional identity in nursing.

The National Academies report, Taking Action Against Clinician Burnout, cites Chari and colleagues' definition of well-being as, "An integrative concept that characterizes quality of life with respect to an individual's health and work-related environmental, organizational, and psychosocial factors. Well-being is the experience of positive perceptions and the presence of constructive conditions at work and beyond that enables workers to thrive and achieve their full potential." And according to The Future of Nursing 2020–2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity, demands of the work environment affect nurses' mental and physical health and well-being.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many detrimental effects that may lead to nurse burnout, moral distress, moral injury, fatigue, poor physical and mental health (anxiety, depression, grief, post-traumatic stress disorder), and decreased work satisfaction and retention. Some nurses have considered leaving their positions or the profession altogether, further adding to the nursing shortage. According to a recent study by Raso and colleagues, during the pandemic, 11.1% of nurses (direct care nurses and managers) have indicated an intention to leave their position (19.6% are undecided) and 1.8% intend to leave the profession (7.6% are undecided). Poor nurse health and well-being can be costly for healthcare organizations and adversely affect patient care quality and safety.

The Future of Nursing 2020–2030 report recommends that "By 2021, nursing education programs, employers, nursing leaders, licensing boards, and nursing organizations should initiate the implementation of structures, systems, and evidence-based interventions to promote nurses' health and well-being, especially as they take on new roles to advance health equity." Many healthcare organizations, educational institutions, and regulatory bodies struggle to meet these recommendations.

Fostering professional identity in nursing education, practice, and regulation is an example of an evidence-based intervention that may transform workplaces into environments that support nurse well-being; prevent burnout, fatigue, mental and physical stress, moral distress, and moral injury; and promote work satisfaction and retention.