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Korean J Med Educ > Volume 35(4); 2023 > Article
Keenoo: Reflection on a journey towards professionalism in medical education

1. Introduction

As a medical educationalist, my role involves facilitating the development of competent and ethical healthcare professionals. Reflecting on my encounters with students, educators, and the educational environment, I aim to critically analyze instances that have shaped my understanding of professionalism and consider strategies for its enhancement. As I reflect upon my journey through medical education, professionalism stands out. Professionalism forms the bedrock upon which competent and compassionate clinicians are built. It encompasses values, attitudes, and behaviors that shape the character of medical students and future healthcare professionals. Through self-reflection, I have appreciated the significance of professionalism in my growth and development. Gibbs’ Reflective Model will be used in this writing to explore my experiences with professionalism in medical education.

2. Description

I observed a student behaving disrespectfully towards a classmate. The student made derogatory remarks and exhibited a lack of empathy. Witnessing this incident concerned me about the culture and values within the medical education setting. It reminded me of the significance of professionalism and the importance of fostering an environment that promotes respect, compassion, and collaboration.

3. Feelings

Witnessing such behavior evoked a range of emotions within me. Initially, I felt a sense of disappointment and frustration, as this incident went against the principles of professionalism, we strive to instill in our students. I also felt empathy towards the targeted student, imagining the impact it may have had on their confidence and well-being. These emotions reinforced my commitment to addressing professionalism within medical education and prompted me to explore potential solutions.

4. Evaluation

Upon reflection, I recognized that professionalism is a multifaceted concept that encompasses various domains, such as ethical conduct, communication skills, and empathy. It is not merely a set of rules to follow but a mindset and a way of approaching patient care and interactions with colleagues. In the case I observed, the student’s behavior highlighted a lack of awareness of their words’ impact on others and a disregard for the values of professionalism.
Professionalism in medical education refers to cultivating and adhering to ethical and behavioral standards expected of medical students and professionals. It encompasses the values, attitudes, behaviors, and responsibilities that are fundamental to the practice of medicine. Professionalism is crucial in medical education as it helps shape students’ and future physicians’ identities, attitudes, and behaviors. Some of the aspects of professionalism are:

1) Ethical behavior

One of the fundamental pillars of professionalism is ethical behavior. From my early days in medical school, I was exposed to the importance of patient welfare, autonomy, and integrity. The lessons learned in medical ethics classes and clinical experiences have emphasized the necessity of prioritizing patient care above all else. Respecting patient confidentiality, obtaining informed consent, and adhering to ethical guidelines have become ingrained in my practice.

2) Responsibility and accountability

Throughout my education, I have realized that medical professionals expect responsibility and accountability. I have witnessed first-hand the impact of my actions, decisions, and words on patients and their families. This awareness has taught me the importance of punctuality, reliability, and taking ownership of my role in patient care. Acknowledging mistakes, learning from them, and striving for improvement has become integral to my growth as a professional.

3) Communication skills

Effective communication lies at the heart of successful healthcare interactions. I have learned the power of compassionate and clear communication through clinical rotations and patient encounters. Active listening, empathy, and cultural sensitivity are essential for establishing rapport and trust with patients and colleagues. I appreciate the impact of my words on patients’ understanding, compliance, and overall well-being.

4) Professional appearance and demeanor

How we present ourselves as medical professionals significantly influence patients’ perceptions and trust in us. I have learned the importance of maintaining a professional appearance, adhering to dress codes, and practicing good personal hygiene. Equally crucial is the cultivation of a respectful and compassionate demeanor. Demonstrating empathy, kindness, and emotional intelligence creates a comforting environment for patients during their vulnerable moments.

5) Lifelong learning

Pursuing knowledge and continuous professional development is a never-ending medical journey. Throughout my education, I have witnessed the rapid advancements in medical science and technology. Embracing a commitment to lifelong learning has become a cornerstone of my professional growth. Staying updated with current medical knowledge and evidence-based practices and adopting new technologies are essential for providing my patients with the highest quality of care.

6) Collaboration and teamwork

The collaborative nature of healthcare demands effective teamwork and collaboration among healthcare professionals. From interprofessional activities and group projects, I have come to appreciate each team member’s diverse perspectives and expertise. Building effective communication, respecting and valuing the contributions of others, and fostering a collaborative environment are essential skills for delivering comprehensive and patient-centered care.

5. Analysis

Delving deeper into the incident, I considered several factors that may have contributed to the student’s behavior. Perhaps they needed to receive adequate education and training on professionalism or had witnessed similar behavior from role models. It also became apparent that the educational environment plays a significant role in shaping professionalism. A lack of mentorship, a competitive atmosphere, or a limited emphasis on nontechnical skills could contribute to unprofessional conduct.

6. Conclusion

Professionalism has emerged as a guiding principle that shapes future clinical practice. Ethical behavior, responsibility, effective communication, professional appearance, lifelong learning, and collaboration are the building blocks of professionalism. Clinicians should embody these values and principles through self-reflection and continuous growth in their daily interactions with patients, colleagues, and the healthcare community. They should be committed to upholding the highest standards of professionalism as they embark on this noble journey of healing and caring for others.
Reflecting on this experience through medical education has reaffirmed the importance of comprehensively integrating professionalism into medical education curricula. As a medical educationalist, I am responsible for cultivating an environment that fosters professionalism. This involves developing targeted educational initiatives, promoting positive role models, and creating reflective practice and feedback opportunities. We can empower students to become empathetic, ethical, and compassionate healthcare professionals by addressing professionalism systematically.

7. Action plan

Based on this reflection, I will take several steps to enhance professionalism in medical education. Firstly, I will collaborate with colleagues to revise and reinforce the professional curriculum, ensuring it encompasses the necessary knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Additionally, I will encourage faculty development programs focused on modelling and teaching professionalism. Finally, I will advocate for creating a supportive and inclusive learning environment where students feel empowered to address unprofessional behavior and seek guidance when necessary.
Overall, this reflection has provided valuable insights into the complex nature of professionalism in medical education. By critically analyzing experiences and considering potential strategies, I am committed to fostering a culture of professionalism that will positively impact the development of future healthcare professionals.




The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.
Conflicts of interest
No potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.
Author contributions
Bibi Sumera Keenoo is the sole contributor to this article. She is an otorhinolaryngologist (ENT surgeon), a specialist in medical education, and a lecturer at the University of Mauritius. She is the coordinator of major medical programs at the University of Mauritius.
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