Professionalism is a complex term

In the beginning of the year I haven’t had the best experience working at a tertiary hospital for my first block in my fourth year of clinical practice. To add to that, it was an ICU rotation which to me at the time was to a certain extent intimidating. Coming from a lovely December/January varsity vacation I quickly had to learn the ins and outs of the theory side of ICU just before I started the block. To my surprise as the block progressed I found myself gaining confidence and stability to what was expected from me by my supervisor, clinician, colleagues as well as myself. Expectations was something that was highly emphasized with my clinician at this block as she always expected me to be on my toes knowing exactly what to do, when to do it, and why I was doing it. She pushed me to improve in so many things and this helped me a lot with how I dealt with every situation/patient. Until one day I felt that perhaps her expectations was too high. Maybe I was a bit stubborn or maybe in the wrong but I honestly got to the point where I felt victimized.

So the situation went about where my exam ended late. There was a patient that I was still meant to treat in the ward, however at the time he was moved to a different unit (which I was unaware of after asking the nurses in charge). After my exam, which was just before the end of my working hours I wrote a note to my clinician informing her about this as there was no other form of communication to her. I didn’t know which ward he was in and unfortunately did not treat him. Assuming that this was me being a good student letting her know about this and hoping that she will understand since I ended off late with my examination, that everything will be fine and she will sort the situation out further.

The next day, she raged at me about not communicating properly, neglecting my patient, not taking responsibility for my patient and accusing me for taking advantage of the fact that my examination and block is done I have an attitude thinking I can do as I please. This made me feel incompetent, senseless and victimized.

I feel that the situation I was in relates a lot to professionalism. According to Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (2014) this term is defined as “qualities, skills, competence and behaviors expected of individuals belonging to any given profession including physiotherapy”. Many sources and research explains that professionalism is a complex term and it is best explained by several acceptable core values. According to American Physical Therapy Association (2012) the following core values are namely; accountability, altruism, compassion and caring, excellence, integrity, professional duty and social responsibility. The two core values that I felt related to my situation are;

Accountability– it was my responsibility to make sure my patient was treated. If I was not able to do so I should have then done the necessary actions to make sure the patient was seen by contacting the next physiotherapist who would see the patient. This is linked to better communication with colleagues.

Altruism- where it was my responsibility to place the needs of the patient ahead of my self-interest where I felt that I needed to go home on time rather than making sure my patient was referred or transferred from one physiotherapist to another.

The video by American Physical Therapy Association (2014)  helped me understand the meaning of professionalism and what it means to others/ how others perceive it. I realized that an individual physiotherapist’s activities in both their working and personal lives will impact upon the perception of physiotherapy professionalism by others.



American Physical Therapy Association. (2014, December 12). APTA Roundtable: Professionalism in Physical Therapy [Video file]. Retrieved from

American Physical Therapy Association. (2012, July 27). Professionalism in physical therapy: Core values. Retrieved from

Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. (2014). What is professionalism? | The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. Retrieved from



6 Replies to “Professionalism is a complex term”

  1. I love the way you wrote your blog, your word choices are appropriate (without trying too much), your structure is good and there is a coherent flow to your work.

    The manner in which you explained altruism and accountability showed that you understood these terms within the context you found yourself. You have given a great deal of insight into the situation. I think that it lack the reflective aspect.


  2. I really enjoyed reading this blog. As i was reading it i automatically played a vision in my mind of what happened. You really defined the terms well which shows your understanding. The added video was brilliant to end your blog. I am sure most of us would have done the exact same thing as what you did however we all are still learning and i am now sure you know exactly what to do when a situation like this arises again.


  3. I can very much relate to your situation. Most of the time clinicians forget that we are there to learn. They have to keep in mind that they also had to start somewhere once.

    Defining those terms gave more depth to your writing piece and because you incorporated your situation into it, lead me to think you understood what it is all about. The video allows the readers to understand how it influenced your thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoyed the fact that this piece was about professionalism, but related to a very specific situation. What I would like to know is more about how your clinician handled the situation. Did you feel as though she was unprofessional in how she handled it? I appreciated the fact that you spoke about what you could have done to handle the situation in line with professionalism, but what aspects of professionalism did your clinician not live up to by treating you this way?

    Good definitions and use of media. Just watch out for little mistakes like consistency in referencing (eg the format of the date) and general grammatical errors. I would suggest proof-reading your piece and either having a friend or using an online database to check your grammar before submitting. Overall, I enjoyed reading your piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Bilqees. Thanks for your honest sharing. I would have liked for you to go into more detail with the “complexity” you refer to in your title. It wasn’t clear to me what was complex about the situation. You seemed to present it in a pretty straight forward light. I’m not disagreeing with you but just wanted to know more about why this situation was complex and maybe also what to do going forward. What will be different in your practice as a result of this situation?


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