What determines professionalism?

Professionalism is grounded with core ethical values and standards. These values and standards are built on the morals you learn when growing up. Having used these morals in different situations throughout your life helps you develop your own sense of professionalism. Professionalism is a major aspect not only in the medical field but in all fields.

Many a times we also learn from our clinicians to better our professionalism in a clinical setting.My question though is how can a clinician rate you as professional or unprofessional without being around when you are interacting with patients?

At the University of the Western Cape, when a student is on clinical rotation, clinicians at the specific placement have to fill out a professional conduct form at the end of the clinical rotation scoring the student in specific areas, this mark is then classified indicative of how professional the student was throughout the clinical rotation

According to Sheehan, Robbins, Porter, & Manley (2015) professionalism is often measured on the students dress code, attendance and whether or not they meet set learning goals as opposed to their emotional investment of the patient and how they participate in caring and treating the patient holistically.

During one of my earlier clinical rotations, the clinician was more concerned about the way we dressed and our punctuality than she was about how we treated our patients and whether or not we discgharged or referred patients. She left us unsupervised and was never aruond when we needed advice on treating our patients. This resulted in me having to learn from my fellow student who was with me on this clinical rotation. This made it possible for the two of us to know what the other was working on with a specific patient and whether or not referrlas were done, however because of the clinician’s absence she needed to do an on our work. I did not find the point in her asking these questions, firstly if she wanted to know this asking us to do a 2 minute daily report on patients wouldve made it easire for her in terms of marking us then.

In my opinion if professionalism is only based on attendance, dress code and meeting certain learning outcomes this causes unnecessary stress for the student as the focus would only be on meeting these requirements rather than treating patients holistically. This inturn interefers with development of a true sense of moral reasoning and dealing with ethical dilemmmas in a clinical setting.

This left many questions in my mind, for a student in the clinical setting should professionalism just be based on being timely, dressing accordingly and always being present, or is there room to include being invested in a patients well being and caring for them holistically.

We cannot change clinicians’ view professionalism for students but we can change the way we view professionalism and inturn change other peoples views on rating students profesionalism in a clinical setting afterall we are the future clinicians and if we can start setting examples now, in a few years time the way students are rated on professionalism, and the students perception of professionalism might change.


Sheehan, S., Robbins, A., Porter, T., & Manley, J. (2015). Why does moral reasoning not improve in medical students? International Journal of Medical Education, 6, 101-102.

Images have been reproduced from Google images, in respect to copyrighted images, national logos and symbols that are respective to certain organizations are therefore acknowledged.


2 Replies to “What determines professionalism?”

  1. Hi. Thanks for your informative post. I like your opinion with regards to the way we could do so we can be better their in the future. I honestly think we cannot criticize attitudes of clinicians and does nothing about it. I think we honestly should learn and practice to be better therapists.

    Looking forward to read your future posts.



  2. I agree with you with respect to the learning outcomes used to assess professionalism. When we identify “professional” with what time you arrive and what you wear, then these will be the things that are focused on. The unit of measurement becomes a “target” that students will aim for, rather than actually paying attention to patients. I should also point out that marking a student on dress code and punctuality is a lot easier than marking them on how they attend to patients. Since clinicians rarely see you with your patients, it makes sense that they need to find some other attribute to use as a proxy for “professionalism”. Nice post.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s