Professionalism in practice

Values, commitment and expectations

Being professional

Female physician smiling
Physician charter — Ten commitments
  • Professional competence
  • Honesty with patients
  • Patients' confidentiality
  • Maintaining appropriate relationships
  • Improving quality of care
  • Improving access to care
  • Just distribution of finite resources
  • Scientific knowledge
  • Maintaining trust by managing conflicts of interest
  • Professional responsibilities

From the Physician's Charter on Medical Professionalism, first published by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation.

Male physician smiling
Attributes of professionalism include:
  • Honesty and integrity
  • Responsibility and accountability
  • Dedication to optimum performance
  • Maintaining and improving basic skills
    • Understanding limits of knowledge and abilities
  • Respect
    • Compassion
    • Empathy
    • Altruism

Studies have shown that a lack of professionalism on the part of a medical trainee can be predictive of future problems with medical regulatory authorities [REF].
Lee, Andrew G. et al. "Teaching and Assessing Professionalism in Ophthalmology Residency Training Programs," Surv Ophthalmology (May-June 2007) 52 (3), p300-314.
 A study has also shown that poor reliability and responsibility, lack of self-improvement, and low levels of initiative and motivation in a medical student are predictive of future disciplinary action by a state medical board in the United States [REF].
Teherani, A. et al. "Domains of unprofessional behaviour during medical school associated with future disciplinary action by a state medical board," Acad Med 80 (2005), S17-20.
 That's why it is important to develop good professional practices early in your training.

Think of a specific role model you admire

  • What characteristics of this individual reflect the values, commitment, and aspirations of the medical profession?
  • What kind of behaviour would you want to emulate?

Young child dressed up as a doctor

Does your role model...

  • put the well-being of patients first?
  • respond to calls for assistance from learners?
  • actively seek feedback and learn from past experiences?
  • provide constructive feedback?
  • demonstrate sensitivity to cultural, gender, or religious differences?
  • enjoy teaching medicine?
  • communicate effectively, fostering a sense of trust?
  • effectively advocate for patients and for safety?
  • develop team relationships that demonstrate respect for trainees, peers, colleagues, and healthcare providers?
  • manage conflict effectively?
  • seek work/life balance?

Many of these behaviours are important elements of professionalism. In recent years a better understanding has been gained of the effects of unprofessional behaviour in healthcare workplaces.