Professionalism in Medical Practice – A Declining Trend?
Is professionalism in medicine on the decline? A few months ago I saw a new patient who had transferred from another practice because the physician there wore sweat pants to the patient’s last appointment. This was hard to believe but a couple of months later, I heard a similar story from another transferred patient. One morning I saw a physician doing hospital rounds in tennis shoes and khakis. And I wondered if this is acceptable in the practice of medicine.
When it comes to professionalism in regard to dress, one would think this would ever be an issue, but as clinicians we are representing not only our profession but also the field of medicine. Time management is also an important area that reflects professionalism: a clinician who falls behind schedules is making patients wait and is not respecting their time. Critical pieces of information can be lost in the hassle and some patients might have waited as long as three months for an appointment. As providers of healthcare we must strive to strike that delicate balance of sparing adequate time with a patient while still adhering to the schedule.
Another important component of professionalism is how we interact we others. Our work is tied to our relationship with our patients and other members of the healthcare team, from the office staff to the hospital board. When we take time to listen, not just to hear, our practice does flourish. Clinicians should have a sense of accountability, should display honesty forthrightness and accept personal mistakes, ask for help when needed and disclose medical error when appropriate. Completion of assigned duties, prompt response, adherence to ethical standards, placing patients’ needs first and maintenance of confidentiality are a part of good medical practice.
Clinicians’ own personal hygiene is very important, they should care for self, seek advice and avoid harmful behaviour. One should seek feedback, be willing to assist other learners, be self aware of areas of improvement, display empathy, and be respectful of different socioeconomic backgrounds and cultural traditions. They should respect authority, work well with others, maintain composure in difficult circumstances, inspire trust and avoid inappropriate remarks. They should treat patients and families with dignity, respect patients’ religious and cultural values, maintain accurate information in patients’ records and advocate for patients.
Ethics and professionalism are closely related. Set high ethical standards for employee behaviour. Support those standards with training, communication and an atmosphere of trust. Ethical problems can add upto significant legal exposure and loss of competitive advantage in the workplace.
The clinicians that avoid these difficulties best are not necessarily ones with the fanciest ethical policies, but those that most effectively provide their workforce with the framework to identify and address ethical issues as encountered. Conclusively, professionalism fosters respect and trust among students, faculty and staff and hence compliance with the highest ethical standards.
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