Perspective: the problem with the problem of professionalism

Acad Med. 2010 Jun;85(6):1018-24. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181dbe51f.


Enhancing professionalism is an important goal of all physicians, both as individuals and as members of educational and institutional communities of practice. Despite a great deal of dialogue and discourse, the medical profession struggles to ensure that all physicians are able to embrace and live the values of professionalism, notwithstanding the myriad stressors present in today's evolving health care environment. The authors suggest a move beyond the traditional educational paradigms focused on reinforcing rules, providing role models, rewarding right behavior, and removing those who falter, and that we instead view the problem of professionalism as a complex adaptive challenge requiring new learning. Approaching lapses in professionalism as a form of medical error may provide a fresh outlook and may lead to the development of successful strategies to help physicians realize their commitment to the values of professionalism, despite the inevitable challenges that arise throughout their careers.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Education, Medical*
  • Professional Competence*
  • Professional Practice*