No two professionals are the same as we are all individuals. However, we all have a general and similar idea of what a good professional should act, behave and ‘look’ like. According to the HPCSA’s guidelines for good practice in the health care professions of 2008, in order to be professional, one must be willing to dedicate your time and energy to others and make a promise and/or commitment to fulfil your professional duties. I believe I possess this quality and I have made a commitment to the profession of Physiotherapy and to always give my best and all to the patients and people I interact with in the working environment. Also according to the HPCSA, the main responsibilities of a health practitioner include to always act in the best interests of his or her patients and to have a balance between objectivity and subjectivity, which honestly, is something I struggle with sometimes. As I always have their best interests at heart and try to put their needs above mine, I find it difficult sometimes to remain objective. I get involved too much when I should have a balance. This is an area that requires work.
A health care practitioner should always respect patient confidentiality, privacy, their choices an dignity (HPCSA, 2008) which I believe I do to the best of my ability. I admit that sometimes I am unsure of to what extent I need to keep patient’s information confidential but I always try my best to respect their privacy. These guidelines also state that a health practitioner must be able to maintain proper and effective communication with their patients and other professionals. Even though I always communicate with my patients throughout sessions, due to a lack of experience I sometimes find it difficult to relay a message properly in a way that the patient understands. I do however maintain proper communication with my colleagues and other professionals as this is essential for optimal treatment of a patient.
The American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ABMGG) states that a good health care practitioner can resolve conflicts between the patient’s interest and outside interests or rules as well as between standard of care and personal beliefs. This is something that I really struggle with as I don’t like conflict so I find it easier to avoid it than rather to resolve the problem. My personal beliefs also influence the way I attempt to solve a problem which is something that requires extra work to correct. The ABMGG also states that a health care practitioner must remain clinically competent and work collaboratively with other professionals to reduce medical error, increase patient safety, minimize overuse of health care resources and optimize outcomes of care. I do believe I work well with other professionals and I know when to ask for assistance and/or an opinion from another professional. With regards to clinical competence, I am very hard working and I am always up for a challenge. I am very motivated internally and I will do my best to provide the best care I can. However, considering I am currently a 4th year student I still have a lot to learn and I am not always as competent as I should or can be.
A study by Aweto, H (2014) states that professionalism can be divided into a variety of elements that one should possess but when looking at oneself there are a number of important characteristics that should be included under the personal values umbrella namely; punctuality, appearance, respect, ability to meet deadlines, social tolerance, integrity, responsibility, compassion, accountability, empathy as well as honesty. I am always punctual and always pay attention to my professional appearance and make sure that I look presentable. As I am dedicated and hard-working I always meet deadlines which shows responsibility. I take responsibility for the tasks given to me and also take responsibility for my actions – good or bad. I have great compassion and I believe that I am accountable. I do have empathy, however it can sometimes be influenced by my personal beliefs, values and prejudice.
In my opinion, a good professional should possess all the characteristics discussed and mentioned above.
Here is a video that explains professional ethics:
With that said, if I had to evaluate myself with regards to characteristics I have that would aid in development of my professional practice, I could name a few. Namely; punctuality, integrity, compassion, respect, empathy, accountability, neat appearance, patience, diligent and hard working, good communication skills and I am a very eager learner.
On the other hand, I also possess a few characteristics which could possibly hinder development of my professional practice, which include; prejudice (it is human nature, we all judge a book by its cover. It doesn’t make it right, but unfortunately it is something that is unknowingly drilled into us by society), empathy (this is a good characteristic, however in my case, I sometimes care too much and get involved in the situation where I should know the professional boundaries), irritability (again, we are only human. I have a nasty habit to get impatient and very irritable when I am tired and when I struggle with something. This only occurs after a while as I actually have good patience to a certain extent) and personal beliefs (we are all brought up in different ways and we all have certain morals and values which make up our personal beliefs. This could influence the way I approach a patient or the specific solution I choose to solve a problem).
Sometimes I really struggle to know when to draw the line about when to stop getting involved. As this is a difficult characteristic to improve on, I will be aware of it and remain conscious of this characteristic throughout my practice and remind myself every now and again: would a professional do this? I also really struggle with prejudice. Not just patients that did bad things, but patients that are very low in function – I tend to brush their treatment off as it may seem to be unimportant. But it is not. I tend to judge them and feel sorry for them and think “they are not going to get any better anyway so I am wasting my time that I could use on someone that is showing progress and that is motivated”. I should change that mind-set and should pay equal attention to all patients.
Even though there are many more categories and elements that can be considered to make a good health care practitioner, I believe I am halfway there and at this stage I am not yet as ‘professional’ as some practitioners with more experience. However, I am very determined to get to that stage and will always strive to be the best that I can possibly be.
ABMGG (2014). Guidelines for Professionalism. Retrieved on April 2nd, 2016 from http://www.abmgg.org/pages/professionalism.shtml
Aweto, HA (2014). Final year physiotherapy students’ knowledge and perception of professionalism. Nigerian Journal of Medical Rehabilitation. Vol17, No 1, p1-17
Carrico Muscle Therapy & Naturopathy (2010). Professional Ethics. Retrieved November 1st, 2016 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-ToaFSjsVI
Health Professions Council of South Africa (2008). Guidelines for good practice in the health care professions – Ethical and professional rules of the health professions council of South Africa as promulgated in government gazette R717/2006. Retrieved on April 2nd, 2016 from http://www.hpcsa.co.za