Chief nursing officer for England Jane Cummings has said poor care is "a betrayal" of the profession's values and urged nurses to show patients more compassion.
A new strategy for the nursing profession, based on compassionate care and with a particular focus on caring for the elderly, has been launched by Ms Cummings following an eight-week consultation.
She believes nurses should be judged on their behaviour and attitude towards patients, as well as their formal qualifications.
Ms Cummings described working as a nurse, midwife or care worker as an "extraordinary role" and acknowledged the difference such professionals already make in people's lives.
However, she also noted that the context of healthcare in the UK is changing.
"Most significantly, with people living longer, we have a greater number of older patients and people to support, many with multiple and complex needs," Ms Cummings said.
She stated that standards of nursing should be based around the "six Cs": care, compassion, commitment, communication, courage and competence.
Find the nearest Barchester nursing home