Premedical students will likely encounter the term “professionalism” as they go through the medical school application process. On secondary applications and in interviews, medical schools may ask applicants to describe professionalism or explain what the concept means.
We encourage students to have a grasp of the idea of professionalism as they are going through their premed journey. This understanding is not just pertinent to the med school application, it is also important as premeds prepare to become members of the medical profession.
How to Think About Professionalism as a Concept
Most students we work with have an intuitive sense of what professionalism means. They associate it with dressing a particular way, being on time or displaying knowledge and skill in a field. But expressing these ideas in a way that encapsulates an all-encompassing definition is more challenging.
Even among experts, there are different opinions about how professionalism should be defined. Students can start by looking up some of the existing definitions of professionalism in medical literature. However, premeds should go beyond existing definitions and think about what professionalism means to them personally.
One proposed definition views professionalism as having three dominant frameworks: espousing values, displaying behaviors that reflect those values and integrating those values into one’s identity.
So, what are some of the values that comprise professionalism in medicine? Many believe that concepts like competence, morality, compassion, respect, responsibility and communication are key values pertaining to professionalism