Can it and should it be measured?
Recall your time in lectures or on the wards today. How was your behaviour? Do you think you acted professionally? Professionalism in medicine is attracting increasing attention from students, doctors, and the media. In this article we define professionalism, explore why it is important now, and discuss how it may develop in the future.
Medical professionalism can essentially be defined as a set of values, behaviours, and relationships.1 Specifically this includes integrity, compassion, altruism, continuous improvement, excellence, and working in partnership with members of the wider healthcare team.1
The authors of a US study suggested 68 behaviourally based signs of professionalism, derived from focus groups among patients, nurses, and doctors.2 This study showed a wide gap among focus groups in the perceived importance of aspects of professionalism. For example, 79.4% of patients deemed “preparing before seeing the patient” a very important aspect of professionalism, compared with only 35.1% of doctors.2