Towards a practical definition of professional behaviour

Wendy Rogers, Angela Ballantyne*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
996 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Context: Professionalism remains a challenging part of the medical curriculum to define, teach and evaluate. We suggest that one way to meet these challenges is to clarify the definition of professionalism and distinguish this from medical ethics. Methods: Our analysis is two staged. First, we reviewed influential definitions of professionalism and separated elements relating to (a) ethico-legal competencies, (b) clinical competence and (c) professionalism. In reference to professionalism, we then distinguished between aspirational virtues/values and specific behaviours. From these, we develop a working definition of medical professional behaviour consisting of six domains of behaviour: responsibility; relationships with and respect for patients; probity and honesty; self awareness and capacity for reflection; collaboration and team work; and care of colleagues. Second, we tested this working definition against empirical data concerning disciplinary action against practising doctors using (a) sources in the literature and (b) an original analysis of complaints received by the Medical Board of South Australia. Conclusion: Our empirical analysis supports the relevance of four of the six potential domains: responsibility; relationships with and respect for patients; probity and honesty; self awareness and capacity for reflection. There are additional reasons for retaining 'collaboration and team work' in the medical professional behaviour curriculum but 'care of colleagues' may be better addressed in the ethico-legal curriculum. Our definition of professional behaviour is consistent with the theoretical literature, captures behaviours that predict future complaints against practitioners and is consistent with current complaints about professionalism in South Australian practitioners. This definition can further the teaching and assessing of professional behaviour in medical schools.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-254
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Medical Ethics
Volume36
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010

Bibliographical note

Copyright retained by the author(s). Article originally published in Journal of Medical Ethics, Volume 36. Issue 4, pp. 250-254. The original article can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jme.2009.035121. Article archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author and according to publisher conditions. For further information see http://www.bmj.com/.

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