Professionalism

Background
As per the Miriam Webster Dictionary, Professionalism is defined as the conduct, aims or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person.
The Mission statement of the D Y Patil Education Society (Deemed to be University) mentions “meet the expectations of various stakeholders in education”, a vital stakeholder being the community which the graduate doctor will serve.
The operational landscape in the medical field is changing and the College recognizes that doctors increasingly need to demonstrate both transparency and accountability. Medical professionals should display the highest standards of behavior and work to patients, their relatives, colleagues, hospital administration and to society in general. Global trends of recertification of physicians, Continuing Professional Development and Practice review, increasing documentation and less dependence on self-regulation all reflect the changing scenario.

Why professionalism?

Professionalism provides abstract ideals to the physician to guide actions and behaviors. These ideals lead an individual doctor closer to making decisions that are patient-centric and ethically likely to be acceptable.

The Vision 2015 document of the MCI states that one of the roles a doctor must perform is that of a “professional who is committed to excellence, is ethical, responsive and accountable to patients, community and profession.”. The MCI has strongly mandated the inclusion of professionalism in the Core Curriculum to be integrated with syllabi at all levels.

Aim of teaching professionalism

The aim is to develop in our graduates, along with the necessary skills and knowledge, the right attitude to the profession and to the expectations of society. The training should guide the new doctor on how to behave at all times and especially during times of stress or pressure.

With this in mind, the College has place increased emphasis on the holistic development of each student with the aim of offering to society empathetic, ethical and hardworking doctors with the requisite set of knowledge and skills.

We hope that every graduate makes a commitment to continually stay on the path of growth in terms of personal and professional advancement and promote positively the medical profession as a whole and any specialty later.

What constitutes medical professionalism?

Medical Professionalism refers to the composite representation of the dress, behavior, speech, body language, actions and attitudes of a doctor as perceived by the patient, attendants and colleagues. It thus includes the ‘human’ aspect of the individual, his/her ‘social’ attributes and delivery of professional skills or knowledge.

The wheel of professionalism has been defined differently for different professions, as the attributes mandated by different professions vary. However, the attributes required by people from the medical and allied professions are distinctly different from those required by non-medical professions. This is understandable and acceptable as the medical professional deals with a population that is less self-reliant, more susceptible and often vulnerable.

As the leader of the medical team, a physician bears an even greater responsibility when compared to other members of the health care team. This further emphasizes the need for exemplary professional behavior and a certain degree of leadership the doctor must display and enact.

Role of faculty

“As educators we must teach it; as practitioners we must demonstrate it; as professionals we must “role-model” it; as consumers/students/patients we expect and demand it.” [1] These words of Grosz serve as a guide to the institution as we educate and train new graduates and post graduates.

Attributes of a ‘Professional’ Doctor

Various attributes have been ascribed as being necessary for a physician to be deemed professional. However, setting aside semantics, nuances and degrees, most would agree on some common traits that a practicing physician must demonstrate and display as are discussed below:

Dependability: the ability of the patient and the health care team to depend on the doctor at all times is vital. This dependability generates trust in the doctor’s decisions and willingness to follow decisions. In addition, dependable doctors smoothen functioning of high dependency units such as Critical Care, Casualty, Operation theatre and Post-Operative care.

Discipline: A doctor must function within the existing framework, as per existing guidelines and in a manner as deemed appropriate for a given situation. The ability to work within prescribed regulations, in an organized and controlled manner is vital. This includes the ability to accept and apply corrective suggestions and critique. It also refers to the use of structured, institutionalized mechanisms to resolve issues, address grievances or make substantial changes.

Altruism: A selfless attitude to work, with the good of the patient being ultimate is important for a doctor. While the regulatory limits of duty hours and job description apply, a doctor must be willing to undertake work over and above at times of need.  

Empathy: Working with the sick, needy and stressed population, a doctor must necessarily be able to express compassion and empathy at all times. Empathy as a trait can be innate, but can also be learnt. It enables the doctor to provide the sympathetic care needed by patients and the support required by attendants or relatives.

Responsibility: a professional must be able to take complete responsibility for his duties, actions and outcomes at all times. As leader of health care team, the doctor must also accept the responsibility of the performance of the team and be able and willing to work with the team towards improvement and updating of skills, attitudes and knowledge. The social responsibility inherent with the profession must be emphasized.

Leadership: the doctor must be able to lead the team in harmony to create an efficient, cohesive unit of function. A proactive, progressive, focused and futuristic vision is desirable. By virtue of the profession, doctors are often leaders of the community and must be able to devolve the duties of this role effectively.

Communication: the ability to communicate effectively and appropriately with colleagues, patients and relatives is an important skill for a doctor. Understanding the art of listening, body language and voice intonations is part of the skill set of each doctor. Differing needs of patients from different cultures, social backgrounds and intellectual abilities must be catered for.

Scholarship: This refers to the continuous professional training and development the doctor must undergo throughout the professional career.

At the core of all the attributes is

Honesty/Integrity: It is important for a doctor to be truthful, behave with honor at all times and listen to his or her conscience.

“Be the Change you want to see”

Mahatma Gandhi