Evaluation of the noncognitive professional traits of medical students

Acad Med. 1993 Oct;68(10):799-803. doi: 10.1097/00001888-199310000-00020.


Background: Professional attributes such as honesty, integrity, and reliability are critical to success in medical school and postgraduate practice, yet such noncognitive attributes have traditionally been poorly evaluated.

Method: A program of evaluating students' noncognitive professional attributes at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine was reviewed over a four-year period, from 1987-88 through 1990-91, involving the approximately 525 students enrolled at the school at that time. The evaluation program enabled faculty and staff to quantify their impressions of problem students in a uniform manner, by using an evaluation form that listed and described seven basic professional traits.

Results: Over the study years the program identified ten students with difficulties in the basic science and clinical years regarding their character and professionalism. For these ten students, interventions ranged from nothing being done, in one case, to such significant remediations as recommendations of extensive counseling and a leave of absence. One student was dismissed, on the basis of poor academic performance, and the other nine have graduated. In some cases, students noticeably improved their professional behaviors, but whether their behaviors changed as a result of the interventions can't be determined.

Conclusion: By identifying and tracking students with difficulties, the program offers the opportunity for intervention and, ideally, remediation. This program can complement systems that evaluate academic performance. Such a program can help an institution assure not only the cognitive competence of its graduates, but the competence of their professional behaviors as well.

MeSH terms

  • Character*
  • Counseling
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Students, Medical / psychology*