Patient perceptions of professionalism: implications for residency education

Med Educ. 2009 Jan;43(1):28-33. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2008.03176.x.


OBJECTIVES The purpose of this study was three-fold: to identify which behavioural, communicative and personal presentation characteristics most closely represent patients' views of professionalism; to determine whether patients perceive resident doctors as displaying these characteristics, and to explore whether or not resident doctor professional behaviour creates an impression of clinical competence to the degree where patients perceive a decreased need for Attending Physician involvement. METHODS We carried out a descriptive, cross-sectional study at an academic centre. An anonymous, voluntary four-question survey with multiple items was administered to all adult patients or the parents of paediatric patients attending an ophthalmology clinic who were seen by a resident doctor followed by an Attending Physician. RESULTS A total of 133 of 148 (90%) surveys were returned. All the itemised characteristics of professionalism were reported to be important or very important to the majority of participants.The most important were: 'Pays attention to my concerns' (90%); 'Is compassionate' (83%), and 'Speaks in terms that I can understand' (83%). Although 85% of respondents reported that resident doctors demonstrated all the characteristics of professionalism listed on the survey, 83% of participants stated that it was important or very important that residents have Attending Physician involvement. CONCLUSIONS Patient-centred components of professionalism, such as communication skills and compassion, are more important to patients than social behaviours, such as appearance and acknowledgement of family members. Resident doctors are perceived to display a high level of professionalism during patient care. Patients clearly desire direct resident doctor

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Communication
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / methods
  • Empathy
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Social Identification