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Making A Professional First Impression in Nursing and Midwifery

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Published: 13 February 2017

Cover image for article: Making A Professional First Impression in Nursing and Midwifery

You have probably wondered at one point or another what kind of first impression you had on someone.

We all try to make the best first impression that we can – whether we are working clinically as a nurse, educating, or even just generally in society. When seeking job opportunities, you may be especially determined to put your best foot forward.

So, you may ask, how do you actually make the best first impression?

It may seem unbelievable, but according to MindTools (2016), it takes just 3 seconds to form a first opinion!

Just a tenth of a second of exposure to a face, leads to development of a first impression (Adams 2012)!

Some literature suggests that people make interpretations of your personality based on your facial features (Adams 2012).

Adams even goes on to suggest that if you are fortunate enough to be categorised as ‘attractive’, then you are likely to be interpreted as being “nice, intelligent, successful and outgoing” (2012).

Adams’ study concluded that there is ‘something in the face besides attractiveness that displays internal traits’. Facial features as well as facial movements, voice and gestures, lead to interpretations about a person’s age, attractiveness, emotions, and familiarity (Zebrowitz & Montepare 2008).

‘Agreeableness’ is heavily judged at a first impression of someone, and it refers to being “friendly, warm, nice, easy to get along with” (Ames & Bianchi 2008). Interestingly, agreeableness is not actually interpreted accurately from first impressions.

First opinions are based on your:

  • Appearance
  • Body language
  • Attire
  • Gestures; and
  • Behaviour.

(MindTools 2016)

It may be somewhat horrifying, that it is unlikely that first impressions can be undone (MindTools 2016)!

Ways to Build a Great First Impression

  • Be punctual
  • Be calm and confident
  • Dress appropriately to the context, neatly, cleanly and respectfully
  • Smile!
  • ‘Stand tall… make eye contact, and greet with a firm handshake’
  • Open the conversation (e.g. use ‘small talk’)
  • Be optimistic
  • Use your manners

(MindTools 2016)

Bad First Impressions

  • If your first encounter with someone is less than ideal, it may be wise to try to create a fantastic second impression (Lawson 2009)
  • It has been suggested that on the second encounter, you should “ask thoughtful questions” and “listen without judgment” (Lawson 2009)
  • Lawson (2009) highlights that first impressions can take a long time to re-correct, and thereby it is essential that you remain patient

Just a Thought:

A different but important aspect of making a likeable first impression, is social media. In modern society, some employers and recruiters look at potential employees’ social media sites/presence when considering who they will hire (Skates 2014). Therefore, a first impression could potentially be formed before they have even met you.

You want to consider how you are portrayed online, for example which profile photo you exhibit. The email address you provide should likewise be respectful, appropriate and professional (Skates 2014).

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Author

Portrait of Madeline Gilkes
Madeline Gilkes

Madeline Gilkes, CNS, RN, is a <a href="https://www.lifestylemedicine.org.au/fellows" target="_blank">Fellow of the Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine</a>. She focussed her master of healthcare leadership research project on health coaching for long-term weight loss in obese adults. In recent years, Madeline has found a passion for preventative nursing, transitioning from leadership roles (CNS Gerontology & Education, Clinical Facilitator) in hospital settings to primary healthcare nursing. Madeline’s vision is to implement lifestyle medicine to prevent and treat chronic conditions. She is planning to complete a PhD in health education, and currently works mostly in the role of Head of Nursing. Madeline’s philosophy focuses on using humanistic management, adult learning theories/evidence and self-efficacy theories and interventions to promote positive learning environments. In addition to her master of healthcare leadership, Madeline has a graduate certificate in adult and vocational education, graduate certificate of aged care nursing, and a bachelor of nursing. Madeline is currently nearing completion of a graduate certificate of diabetes education and management. See Educator Profile

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