professionalism in medicine: what every aspiring doctor should know | Medical school admissions doctor
Students of premedicine are likely to come across the term “professionalism” when they go through the process. medicine School application process. In secondary applications and during interviews, medical schools may ask applicants to describe their professionalism or to explain what the concept means.
We encourage students to understand the idea of professionalism during their premedical journey. This understanding is not only relevant to medical school application, it is also important as premedicins prepare to become members of the medical profession.
How to think of professionalism as a concept
Most of the students we work with have an intuitive idea of what professionalism means. They associate it with dressing in a particular way, being on time, or demonstrating knowledge and skill in an area. But expressing these ideas in a way that sums up a broad definition is more difficult.
Even among experts, there are different opinions on how professionalism should be defined. Students can start by researching some of the existing definitions of professionalism in the medical literature. However, premeds should go beyond existing definitions and think about what professionalism means to them personally.
A proposed definition considers professionalism to have three dominant frames: espouse values, display behaviors that reflect these values and integrate these values into one’s identity.
So what are some of the values that make up professionalism in medicine? Many believe that concepts such as competence, morality, compassion, respect, responsibility and communication are key values relating to professionalism in medicine.
A moral physician, for example, is honest and acts in the best interests of the patient, even if it conflicts with the interests of the physician. Likewise, we, as a society, want our physicians to be respectful, take their responsibilities seriously, and communicate well. Can you think of any other virtues that you believe are important aspects of professionalism in medicine?
The next framework involves a set of behaviors associated with a professionalism that reflects the values of a profession. For example, one of the values listed above is responsibility. Behaviors that reflect a sense of responsibility arrive on time, perform their duties and dress in a manner accepted by the profession. Good communication is another value that is part of professionalism.
Behaviors that demonstrate good communication may include listening to others or speaking in a tone that is not hostile or condescending. Premeds are encouraged to think about other behaviors that can embody professionalism in medicine.
The third framework of professionalism is the formation of an identity which integrates the values of the profession. He views professionalism as an ongoing process where you constantly ask how to evolve to further embrace the values and practices embodied in your profession, how to integrate these values into the fabric of your identity, and how to promote those values and behaviors within your profession.
Why professionalism is important in medicine
Without professionalism, the goals of a profession like medicine can be compromised. Can you think of the consequences of a doctor who does not value morality, respect, compassion or honesty? Naturally, a doctor who does not espouse these values will not display the associated behaviors.
Take respect, for example. A physician who does not take the idea of respecting his peers and patients seriously may not respect patient confidentiality. It has become a particularly prominent issue in the age of social media, where a patient’s personal information can easily be revealed when doctors act irresponsibly.
Research has shown that a lack of professionalism can hamper care. For example, a recent study conducted in Cambodia and Pakistan examined the professionalism of health care providers, breaking it down into elements such as technical knowledge, ethical behavior, communication and compassion. The study found that inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics, which has the potential to cause antimicrobial resistance, was associated with a lack of professionalism.
How aspiring physicians can embody professionalism
Numerous experts believe professionalism must be learned from the start of the journey to become a doctor. So how can premeds begin to acquire qualities of professionalism and display them?
There are many different approaches, but several that have been discussed in the medical literature are worth considering. Specific courses can help future doctors to acquire professionalism. For example, taking a course in medical ethics is a good way to think about moral actions in the context of patient care.
Participation in service-oriented activities might also help students develop attributes such as compassion, which are relevant to professionalism. Premedicine students should participate in service-oriented activities, such as giving back to low-income communities through volunteering in clinical or non-clinical settings.
Beyond activities and classes, one way to gain professionalism is to be introspective. It involves thinking about the virtues embodied in the medical profession and striving to display them through your behavior.
Premedicine students should also take advantage of their clinical experiences to observe how the physicians they work with demonstrate professionalism. This process of self-reflection and observation will allow future physicians to lay the foundations for becoming a physician who embodies professionalism.