Reflections on Professionalism

Professionalism can be defined simply as meeting the requirements of a profession or career. However, I think that there is much more to the sentiment of professionalism. It is something more than having a certain degree, or certificate, but rather exemplifying the heart of a profession. Medicine should be based in service to patients. Professionalism in medicine should express this sense of service. Service is much more than giving someone the correct medication or hearing the symptoms and reacting. Exemplifying professionalism in medicine should be in service to the patient. This should include recognition of the many other aspects of their situation as well as the way that we carry ourselves and gather information. As physicians, professionalism includes compassion, integrity, overlooking our own self-interest, and accountability to our patients.
Our professionalism in this sense has a great impact on patient care, outcomes, and most importantly, patient perspective. This perspective is important on guiding the impact that providers can have on patient outcomes. If the providers actions create a negative opinion of the intentions of a provider, this may lead to decreased compliance or a lack of trust. If the patient does not see the provider is professional, this may decrease how often a patient visits. This could lead to preventable/chronic diseases going unmanaged, or undetected. If this perspective is a positive one, patient trust will be improved leading to increased compliance and better medical management.

One good example of this enacted in the clinical setting was when a patient was not clearly understanding the impact of their poor diabetes management on their health. Prior notes mentioned non-adherence and poor compliance, but after diving further into the patients perspective, I uncovered that they were lacking in understanding of what diabetes was and the impact it could have. I spent the time to go over basic physiology of diabetes and even more time brainstorming ways that his diabetes management could fluidly be woven into his daily routines and interesting ways to approach dietary modifications, etc. If I would have just written this patient off as non-compliant, a large opportunity for improvements in this patients outcome. I learned the importance of these conversations by observing clinicians who implementing many of these tenants of professionalism stated above.

To ensure that I always uphold these values of professionalism, I will continually check in with myself and my seniors to directly evaluate how I am performing in this domain. I will try to get short episodes of feedback on a weekly basis and further debrief on a monthly basis. I believe that it is important to constantly evaluate oneself in order to truly grow professionally. I will also ask co-residents to keep me accountable and call me out if anything I do does not align with these tenants of professionalism.

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