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Med Teach. 2004 Dec;26(8):696-702.

How to conceptualize professionalism: a qualitative study.

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  • 1Department of Postgraduate Training for General Practice, University Medical Centre St. Radboud, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


The aim of this study was to clarify which themes and elements constitute professionalism in medicine. Three consecutive steps were taken: (a) a systematic search of the literature to identify constituent elements of professionalism mentioned in definitions and descriptions of the concept; (b) analysis of these elements using the constant comparison technique to reveal possible themes covering these elements; and (c) validating the results using an expert panel. A total of 90 separate elements of professionalism were identified in the 57 articles included in our study. Three themes within professionalism were uncovered: (1) interpersonal professionalism; (2) public professionalism; and (3) intrapersonal professionalism. These themes were considered accurate by the expert panel which supports the validity of the results. Our findings show that the concept of professionalism is multidimensional and should be conceptualized as such.

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