What makes a capable Health Care Professional (HCP) ? : Naz End of term 1 writing piece

According to the South African Constitution Bill of Rights section, every individual has the right to have access to health care. This health care includes intervention(s) from physiotherapists. Now, if it is a human right to receive health care(therapy) why is not specified that this be carried out by a “capable” professional? What good is health care coming from an incompetent individual?

During my personal clinical experiences, I’ve come across qualified professionals whom I consider inept. My reasoning is  deduced from a combination of what I see as capable or righteously qualified. I feel there are certain things a therapist should be/do/have to be “capable”. According to Rowe 2015, the characteristics of a capable HCP include; adequate knowledge and skills of a patient’s specific condition. This includes scientific aspects of the body and its functioning etc. Knowledge and skills can be taught to any individual and adapted accordingly. I feel what differentiates someone who is able and someone who is competent are things like empathy, compassion and genuine care for another human being. Empathy may be influenced or even adapted but its origin must arise from seeing another person as not only an equal but having the ability to see yourself in their position (Wikipediaorg, 2017).  Furthermore, it is explained that capable HCPs engage in self-evaluation in order to improve professional development, knowing how to build relationships with patients, emotional context consideration i.e. honest engagement with patients and having positive role-models in a clinical setting  (Rowe,2015). I believe that the influences during studies and first time exposures, mold future clinicians and their competences.

I’ve used this post to question behaviors I have encountered among professionals on my clinical rotations. I have come across what I feel is unethical behavior through incompetent practices of character that may lead to a domino effect of developing incapable students who in turn become professionals themselves.  I have witnessed qualified therapists use their power unethically, exhibit agency and discrimination towards students and even patients. I was baffled by this and therefore sought out to explain what a capable therapist should be like and what they should take part in to be competent.

One personal experience I had was with a supervisor who would always undermine me, yell at me and even call me inappropriate things during sessions but always only when we were alone. She would question my choice of treatment and quality thereof and actually just make me look like a fool in front of patients. She used the fact that nobody else could witness her unethical behavior and report about it. She also knew that a patient wouldn’t speak up against her and that nobody would believe a student over her word. I was shocked at how an adult could be so childish and how one person could bring another down and discriminate against and disrespect them. I would have never thought someone “professional” was capable of this. She used the power of authority to manipulate a situation for her unethical, unknown reasons.

The literature I found provides valid, agreeable points on what capable HCPs should be and practice. I would like to include that a competent, ethically characterized therapist  is someone who will provide the best and most holistic approach to therapy. Ethics is an extremely important consideration for any practice and person. I relate ethics and competency in physiotherapy to a well rounded off professional. Without ethics; empathy, respect, compassionate care and a genuine relation to patients, no therapist can claim to be competent. And although there is no metric grading system for characteristics, we can all improve ourselves and our practices by asking for help, learning how to connect with patients and other therapists. We need to constantly re-evaluate ourselves . This, makes us competent and capable. To practice never-ending self development and improvement strategies is what makes any therapist better than the next.


Rowe, M., 2015, ‘Exploring the characteristics of capable healthcare professionals’, South African Journal of Physiotherapy 71(1), Art. #247, 6 pages. http://dx.doi. org/10.4102/sajp.v71i1.247

Western Cape Government. The Bill of Rights. Retrieved from:       https://www.westerncape.gov.za/general-publication/know-your-human-rights

Wikipediaorg. (2017). Wikipediaorg. Retrieved 12 April, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathy



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