Challenges and next steps in teaching professionalism in surgical training

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Professionalism defines the contract between society and a profession, encompassing a commitment to mastery of a complex body of knowledge, service and accountability to society and the privilege of autonomy and self‐regulation. In surgical education, the competencies of professionalism and ethics include awareness, insight, ethical practice, confidentiality, open disclosure and maintenance of personal health and wellbeing.1
The importance of professionalism as a core competency in medical education is undisputed,2 yet it seems unusual to embark upon the teaching of professionalism given that it would be expected that doctors should not have to be taught the obvious. It has been referred to as the ‘hidden curriculum’, with certain ‘core character values’ representing life skills that are ‘hard wired’ well before leaving high school or university.3 Surgeons and trainees rank professionalism competencies and attributes highly compared to other medical and technical competencies.1 The challenge is in defining, teaching and assessing professionalism with few resources to guide educators in curriculum development.
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