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Soc Sci Med. 1986;22(5):501-8.

Professionals and professions: a philosophical examination of an ideal.

Abstract

Being regarded as a professional and having one's occupational group regarded as a profession are often deemed desirable. It is not immediately apparent why this is so. 'Professional' often contrasts simply with 'amateur', and as a label conveys not honor but the recognition that the one so labelled is paid for doing what others do for free. But there is a distinct, honorific sense in which the professional contrasts not with the amateur but with the person who simply has a job rather than a life-long calling. It is in this honorific sense that physicians, attorneys and members of the clergy serve as paradigm professionals. Aspiring professionals in disciplines other than the paradigm ones regard themselves as more nearly like these paradigms than is usually recognized, and this is their claim to recognition as professionals. The paper explores several possible points of similarity by developing an account of the ideal for professionals which has been held in Western society at least since the time of the Hippocratic Oath, which best captures its spirit. As the Oath makes clear, professionals have fiduciary relations with their patients or clients, and provide services of a personal nature. The paper explores the principal demands of this ideal, the principal steps which physicians have taken in pursuit of it, and some of the implications of this ideal for various groups of social scientists associated with medicine. Finally, it recognizes a professional spirit or attitude which transcends occupation.

KIE:

The term 'professional' is used with different meanings, sometimes as simply the opposite of 'amateur' but at other times in an honorific sense to suggest a calling in contrast to a job. Physicians, attorneys, and members of the clergy serve as paradigm professionals, but persons with other occupations may aspire to similar status. Moline explores the ideal of professionalism that has been present in Western society since the time of the Hippocratic Oath. As the Oath makes clear, professionals have relationships with their patients or clients, and they provide services of a personal nature. After discussing how physicians express this ideal in practice, Moline suggests that it is possible in almost any occupation to express the spirit of the paradigm professional by putting the good of the weaker party over one's own interest, maintaining standards of strict confidentiality regarding personal information, and treating one's working relationships with others as fiduciary.

PMID:
3704687
DOI:
10.1016/0277-9536(86)90015-8
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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