Professionalism: The “Forgotten” Core Competency

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The anesthesiology residents in our program were recently asked to define one of the core competencies of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME): professionalism. They mostly returned lengthy, blank stares. Finally, 1 courageous woman said, “Professionalism is honoring the Anesthesia family name.” We think she delivered fairly close to the mark. A simple, layperson’s definition of professionalism might be: “The skill, good judgment and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well,”1 but we believe that professionalism for physicians extends beyond a job well done. Important components of professionalism involve noncognitive skills, including communication (language, empathy, integrity, compassion), collaboration (responsibility, respect, duty), and continuous improvement (recognition of limitations, motivation to improve).2 Defining professionalism, however, is considerably easier than teaching it, as highlighted in the article by Mitchell et al3 in this issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia.
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