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Acad Med. 2001 Jul;76(7):734-7.

Senior residents' views on the meaning of professionalism and how they learn about it.

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Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada.



To determine senior residents' views on the meaning of professionalism and how they learned about it.


By means of a modified Dillman technique, all senior residents at two faculties of medicine (n = 533) were surveyed about professionalism during the 1998-99 academic year. The residents were asked to list attributes of professionalism and to rank methods they found most useful for learning about professionalism, to rate the adequacy and quality of their teaching about professionalism and their comfort in explaining the concept of professionalism to a more junior trainee, to list suggestions about how teaching about professionalism could be improved, and to name the medical organization most concerned with matters of professionalism.


A total of 258 residents (48.4%) responded. They listed 1,052 attributes they associated with professionalism. The three most common attributes, all listed by more than 100 respondents, were respect, competence, and empathy. The respondents had learned the most about professionalism from observing role models, they rated the quantity and quality of teaching about it positively, and they felt comfortable explaining professionalism to a junior resident. Only 56% of the residents correctly identified the Canadian medical organization most concerned with professionalism.


Residents' knowledge about professionalism reflects their early stage of development as physicians and their daily activities, where such aspects of professionalism as the social contract, codes of ethics, participation in professional societies, and altruism are not highlighted. Residency programs should develop teaching activities focusing on professionalism that relate to issues residents face in their daily work.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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