No one wakes up professional

Professionalism, and the development of the identity of being professional does not take place in the classroom. The identity of being a professional is formed by the development of the components of what embodies a professional that takes place on both a clinical level and a personal level.

Clinical practice workplaces strongly shape professional identity development and it is not the role of universities (West & Chur-Hansen, 2004). As a student this can be so overwhelming because once clinical placement begins and you are surround by a multitude of  health professionals of different levels who all display this professional identity. The pressure increases when you realize, that as a student, within the time of being at the clinical placement, you are expected to display the same level of ethical competency and fulfill the same role of eventually of embodying all that is “professional.” The question is, when does this development take place?

On a personal level, in terms of development, there is a clash of personal attitudes, belief systems and personality. Professionalism demands that we all be standardized in our method of care. In the way we handle our clinical dilemma’s, how we communicate in the workplace and how we go about treating patients. This means to say, that all personal attitudes, belief systems and personality is to be standardized to embody what is “professional.” This calls for the balance of these components and the ability to conduct oneself professionally.

On a clinical level, when you start your course in any health profession, in first year, you’ll find that in order to pass a test you’d consider cheating on a test to pass. This is no different from the decisions and attitudes you have that governs your decisions in the workplace one day, or in clinical practice. Being a student, would you call yourself a professional student? The best capture the behaviors of students in real-world contexts in which they are called on to resolve a professional dilemma that is relevant to their everyday lives. It is in these defining moments that you are called professional or not professional. It is in these defining moments that develop professionalism. The clinical placements challenge the student by providing an ever changing environment to constantly apply different knowledge and clinical reasoning.

Professionalism is a developmental process that requires you to be uncomfortable, question your attitudes and be aware of your qualities to being a holistic health professional, that not only displays the components of being professional but the dilemmas and the clashes we go through, provide the opportunity to understand how being the professional can blend with the individual.

No one wakes up professional. It isn’t about expecting to “feel” like a physiotherapist. It is about embodying the professional each day to become the physiotherapist and understanding you were never a student, but a professional since the day the course has started.


Cox, M., Irby, D., Stern, D., & Papadakis, M. (2006). The Developing Physician — Becoming a Professional. New England Journal Of Medicine, 355(17), 1794-1799.

Trede, F., Macklin, R., & Bridges, D. (2012). Professional identity development: a review of the higher education literature. Studies In Higher Education, 37(3), 365-384.

West, C., & Chur-Hansen, A. (2004). Ethical enculturation: the informal and hidden ethics curricula at an Australian Medical School. Australasian And New Zealand Association For Medical Education, 6(1), 85-99.


One Reply to “No one wakes up professional”

  1. Wonderful post, Andre. I particularly liked the idea that professionalism requires you to be uncomfortable, and that it’s how you respond in those defining moments that make you “professional”. Anyone can wear the right uniform and show up at the right time, but doing the “right” thing when it’s hard…that’s a challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

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