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Professionalism: Definition and Principles


Oscar Lyons - 2019

This module explores the evolving concept of medical professionalism, particularly in the context of leadership and quality improvement. It begins by defining traditional medical professionalism, emphasizing values like integrity, compassion, and continuous improvement. 

The module highlights a shift in the perception of professionalism, noting skepticism among doctors, especially in training, towards efforts to redefine it. This skepticism is linked to emerging issues like burnout and resilience training. The discussion then moves to the dissatisfaction among doctors, a sentiment that has persisted despite the perceived prestige and security of the medical profession. 

The module argues that this dissatisfaction stems from a feeling among doctors that they are unable to fully utilize their skills and training to provide optimal patient care. The historical context of medical professionalism is examined, noting its origins in medieval Europe and its evolution into a self-regulated, altruistic profession. However, the module points out that professionalism is being challenged by market and bureaucratic forces, leading to standardized work, reduced training control, and a focus on technical expertise over holistic care. 

The module proposes a new understanding of professionalism, framing it as a social instrument for generating new knowledge. This approach aligns professionalism with leadership, suggesting that doctors should be involved in management and leadership to drive healthcare improvements. The cost and challenges of leadership development are acknowledged, along with the potential disconnect between doctors and healthcare management.

 The conclusion emphasizes the need for medical professionalism to adapt to modern demands. It suggests that engaging doctors in quality improvement and leadership could enhance job satisfaction, motivation, and resilience, and is essential for addressing the challenges of healthcare quality and costs. 

Key learning points include the necessity of redefining medical professionalism to fit contemporary needs, understanding professionalism as a means to generate new knowledge, and recognizing the potential benefits of integrating leadership and management with medical practice for overall improvement in healthcare.

Read more at: Professionalism: definitions and principles (BJUI)

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