It’s a loaded word.
‘Professionalism’ means different things to different people. And maybe you’ll devise your own definition for what exactly it means – for you.
Let’s pull out our trusted dictionary and see what it has to say.
“Professional: taking part in an activity… in order to make money”
Let’s parse this into its parts.
A professional works for money. Automatically, this implies a few things.
- fully trained and competent for the job
- licensed and qualified to do it
- good enough to be worth paying for
- going to finish the work… no matter what
A medical doctor fits the bill – in all respects.
You have studied and trained for 5 years. You’ve acquired knowledge and skills that make you capable of treating patients.
You have passed tough examinations, and received degrees. You have been licensed by your Medical Council to practice as a physician.
You are good enough (or soon will be) to justify any fee you charge for your services.
And that brings us to the crux of the matter.
To one other thing sets a professional apart from the rest we call ‘amateurs’…
A professional simply gets the job – no matter what.
It means you don’t let personal or extraneous concerns affect your work.
You’ll delay personal gratification.
You’ll ignore constraints and challenges in your environment.
You’ll focus entirely on the job at hand.
And you’ll get it done.
There will be days you don’t “feel like doing it”. Or are “not in the mood”. Or have “other urgent problems” to address.
It’s at these difficult times when your professionalism comes to the fore.
Surely you’ve heard other senior doctors talk about always “putting the patient first”.
This is what they mean.
When a patient arrives at your clinic or hospital seeking help for a health condition, it’s because of their trust in your professionalism.
That trait which sets you apart from all other non-professionals.
In the sense that you’ll do right by them – regardless of anything else.
There are a few other aspects of professionalism we can address.
Like how you dress and carry yourself – with dignity, decency and decorum.
Like how you talk and behave with your patients – politely, kindly, and with compassion.
Like how you go about your work – with dedication, focus and competence.
All of this matters.
But what overwhelmingly sets you apart – makes you a true professional – is your commitment to get the job done.
No matter what.
Have you read Dr.Sivasubramanian’s books on the making of a surgeon yet?
Read the other ‘Desirable Traits for Interns‘ here.