Teaching professionalism – Why, What and How

Keywords:

Professionalism, teaching professionalism, professional identity, medical curriculum

S.R. CRUESS, R.L. CRUESS

Centre for Medical Education, Lady Meredith House, McGill University, 1110 Pine Ave. W., Montreal, Quebec, H3A 1A3.

Abstract

Due to changes in the delivery of health care and in society, medicine became aware of serious threats to its profes- sionalism. Beginning in the mid-1990s it was agreed that if professionalism was to survive, an important step would be to teach it explicitly to students, residents, and practicing physicians. This has become a requirement for medical schools and training programs in many countries. There are several challenges in teaching professionalism. The first challenge is to agree on the definition to be used in imparting knowledge of the subjects to students and faculty. The second is to develop means of encouraging students to consistently demonstrate the behaviors characteristic of a professional - essentially to develop a professional identity.

Teaching of professionalism must be both explicit and implicit. The cognitive base consisting of definitions and attributes and medicine’s social contract with society must be taught and evaluated explicitly. Of even more importance, there must be an emphasis on experiential learning and reflection on personal experience. The general principles, which can be helpful to an institution or program of teaching professionalism, are presented, along with the experience of McGill University, an institution which has established a comprehensive program on the teaching of professionalism.