Promote professionalism among residents

Residency Program Insider, August 28, 2007

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Teaching professionalism involves encouraging mindfulness in practice. Professional excellence may be based on the knowledge of and respect for the patient as a person with needs and values. Ethical competence requires three values:

  1. self-awareness
  2. interpersonal skills
  3. the intention of healing


Self awareness and interpersonal skills can be taught, but that intention of healing must be identified during the medical school admissions process and then nurtured and maintained.


Reflective writing, where learners reflect on their clinical experiences, is one method for increasing learners' awareness of their developing professional identities. For example, asking learners to keep a journal allows them to recognize their own personal journeys through medicine and helps them to connect what they learn to everyday practice.


Storytelling is a good way to teach professionalism as well. Professionalism is embodied in the stories people tell about their day-to-day experience in medical settings, and stories illuminate the intersection of the formal and hidden curriculum.


Those involved in medical education must explicitly teach and model the capacities and values we expect physicians to learn, and faculty development is an essential component of any professional curriculum.


You may consider implementing large-scale faculty development programs that emphasize moral education, including its theoretical underpinnings and the importance of an approach that integrates compassion and caring into learners' work with patients.  Faculty development programs should develop a common understanding of the definition, characteristics, and behaviors of professionalism and help translate this content into practice by teaching and demonstrating professionalism in the clinical setting.



Editor's Note: The above is adapted from A Practical Guide to Teaching and Assessing the ACGME Core Competencies by Elizabeth Rider, MSW, MD, FAAP, Gary Smith, EdD, and Ruth Nawotniak, MS, CTAGME, and published by HCPro, Inc.

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