- What is professionalism?
The oxford dictionary (n. d. as cited in Mitchell, 2009, p. 668) defines professionalism as an occupation in which a person professes to be skilled in. The Webster International dictionary of English language (n. d. as cited in Mitchell, 2009, p. 668), on the other hand, defines professionalism as a calling that requires special knowledge and long intensive educational preparation that includes instruction in methods and skills as well as instruction on the scientific, scholarly, and historical principles that inform the methods and skills; and that maintains high standards of conduct and achievement for its members that commit members to lifelong learning and provision of a designated service to the public. The term professionalism encompasses a set of skills, behaviours, attitudes, attributes, and values that are expected of those the profession has accorded the privilege of being considered professional. The fundamental values of professionalism include integrity, honesty, compassion, empathy, altruism, respect, dedication, self-improvement, responsibility, and accountability.
- Does professionalism matter?
Professionalism bears great weight to the practice of a profession. Professional values and behaviours form the foundation of the practice of a given profession. For instance, when providing nursing care, nurses put into action attributes and values of professionalism. Professionalism in nursing is actually defined as the consistent demonstration of the fundamental values of nursing evidenced by nurses collaborating with other professionals to achieve optimal health outcomes for individuals, families, and communities through wise application of the principles of caring, ethics, altruism, excellence, respect, accountability, and communication (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2008). Professionalism is central to professions. For instance, in nursing, competency in professionalism is a core component of nursing curricula; student nurses must acquire requisite knowledge, skills, and attitudes in professionalism and professional issues.
The definition of professionalism distinguishes who is a professional and who is not. An individual who professes to be a professional must have the necessary educational preparation required of persons in the profession he or she professes. Professionalism or the lack of it also influences public perception of practitioners in a certain profession. For instance, the numerous instances of medical errors and unethical behaviours reported in the media have reduced the confidence of the public in medical professions. The latter aspect is essential because the moral authority of practitioners in a certain profession to practice rests with the public (Crigger & Godfrey, 2011, pp. 20-21). Nursing enjoys great respect from the public because it is guided by the concept of caring which is in-turn epitomized by other professional values such as human dignity, autonomy, and altruism (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2008). More importantly though, knowledge of professional values and is essential for nurses so that they can understand the values patients and other health practitioners bring to a therapeutic relationship and be able to make ethical decisions using professional frameworks. Professionalism is also the subject of litigations where aggrieved parties sue health care providers on the basis that they failed to conduct themselves in a professional manner. Notably, honesty and ethical behaviors are two essential elements of professional behavior that impact on patient safety.
- How is professionalism judged?
In educational settings, student acquisition of knowledge, skills, and attitudes in professionalism is evaluated via written examinations and practicums. In practice settings though, it is difficult to measure professionalism values such as honesty and altruism. Performance management tools such as rating scales are used to appraise the performance of staff nurses periodically (Oermann & Gaberson, 2013, pp. 255). These tools embody elements aimed at evaluating professionalism. In litigations, litigants have to show that a professional owed a duty to a client and the professional failed to provide the duty owed despite having the necessary knowledge and skills to do so.
- What is the individual responsibility in regards to professionalism?
Professionals are responsible and accountable for themselves and their practice. For instance, the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Nursing (2005 as cited in American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2008) states that each nurse is responsible for their individual practice and must determine how to delegate tasks appropriately to ensure that he or she meets the obligation to provide safe, quality, and effective patient care. Inherent in accountability is the responsibility for individual decisions, actions, behaviours, continuous professional development, and lifelong learning. Therefore, professional bodies prescribe the standards of practice for a profession and individual practitioners are responsible for achieving and maintaining these standards.
5. Unprofessionalism can have serious implications such as(give two examples).
Unprofessionalism can have serious implications such as litigations for unprofessional conduct and disciplinary action meted by concerned professional bodies. Unprofessional conduct increases the probability of medical errors and adverse patient outcomes. Consequently, it may result in litigation where either the patient/client, their family members, or significant others sue the individual practitioner and/ or the hospital for the harm caused to the patient. Acting in an unprofessional manner jeopardizes not only the patient well being but also that of other health practitioners. Since practitioners are bound by a code of conduct prescribed by relevant professional bodies, breach of this code may result in disciplinary actions against the involved practitioner (s). Disciplinary action may entail simple warnings or in case of severe violations of the code of conduct, revoking of the practice license of the concerned practitioner (s).
American Association of Colleges of Nursing (2008). The essentials of baccalaureate education for professional nursing practice. Retrieved from http://www.aacn.nche.edu/education- resources/BaccEssentials08.pdf
Crigger, N. & Godfrey, N. S. (2011). The making of nurse professionals. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Barlett Learning.
Mitchell, L. (2009). Oxford handbook of clinical dentistry (5th ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press Inc.
Oermann, M. H. & Gaberson, K. B. (2013). Evaluation and testing in nursing education (4th ed.). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company, LLC.