A vocation founded upon specialized educational training, the purpose of which is to supply disinterested counsel and service to others, for a direct and definite compensation, wholly apart from expectation of other business gain”
The question of what constitutes a true profession is a complex one because it is not only a descriptive term to denote a group of people who share a common occupation. It also conveys a value judgement; do the members of that group display behaviour that makes them worthy of their professional position?
Historically, the word professional was most likely linked to someone – almost certainly a man – practising law, medicine, religion or education but in more modern definitions, a profession has to meet at least four criteria:
- There should be a commitment to the public good
- It requires advanced expertise and education
- It involves having independent judgement
- There is some form of social organization and recognition
Commitment to the public good presumes a shared devotion to some aspect of the good of society – for example, in the case of any health professional it might mean to promote health in the community. In physiotherapy it ascribes certain aspects of health care and distinctive social roles, etc. functional movement, prevention of injury, reducing or relieving pain, etc., which are obvious, and it directs professional ethics to a code of ethics and guidelines for professional conduct, distinguishing professionals from technicians and drafters. This governs professional activities as a distinctive attitude to professional work is expected. Professional life spills over into leisure time and private life and the boundaries between these may be fluid, meaning that a modern professional is never “off duty”. Thus the physiotherapist will be judged by the standards of the profession, regardless of the context or circumstances or even whether advise or treatment are given.
A profession and its functions are subject to society’s approval and confidence. Society will require evidence that the profession is mindful of its broad social responsibilities. Professionals are accorded considerable trust, allowed to deal in fiduciary (trust/confidential/reliance) matters, handle confidential information and are often officially consulted about professional matters. Social standing, status and prestige are knowledge if society is convinced that the members of the profession pursue their vocation honestly and disinterestedly, and not purely for financial gain.
The decision to enter into the profession may be facilitated by different motives. Craft motives are to meet high standards of technical excellence and to seek creative solutions to technical problems. Compensation motives could be to earn a good living, to have a job stability, to gain professional recognition and to exercise power and authority. Moral motives could involve aspects of integrity i.e. a desire to meet professional responsibility and to maintain moral integrity. Finally, caring motives may promote the wellbeing of others for its own sake. All of these different motives are interwoven in the life of a professional.
RESPONSIBILITY OF PROFESSIONALS.
- Patients / clients
- The public
- Laws and governmental regulations