Purpose: Measuring professional behavior is problematic not least because the concept of professionalism is difficult to define. The authors describe a measurement tool that does not rely on qualitative judgments from respondents but, nonetheless, clearly correlates with individuals' subjective views about what constitutes professional behavior.
Method: The authors devised the Conscientiousness Index (CI) of medical students' performance in years 1 (n = 116) and 2 (n = 108) in 2006-2007. The CI scores were based on a range of objective measures of conscientiousness, including attendance and submission of required information (such as immunization status or summative assessments) by a deadline. The validity of this instrument was tested against (1) staff views of the professional behavior of individual students and (2) critical incident reports.
Results: The trait of conscientiousness, as measured by the CI, showed good correlation with the construct of professionalism as perceived by staff views of individual students' professional behavior. There was also a relationship with the frequency of critical incident reporting. Together, these observations support the validity of the approach. Reliability and practicality were also acceptable.
Conclusions: The results suggest that the CI measures a scalar objective trait that corresponds well with professional behavior as perceived by staff members in an undergraduate medical school. The individual decisions making up the CI are objective and easy to collect, making it a relatively simple and uncontroversial method for exploring students' professionalism.