In times of uncertainty, human behavior often makes people resort to less-than-stellar behaviors; Unhealthy personal environments can become manifest as well.
Often, these coincide with health care being used more frequently and the safe haven of health care delivery being sought.
With all physicians being leaders, it is incumbent upon you to demonstrate a variety of professional qualities, and you must also draw on your own human qualities to succeed as well.
The words “profession” and “professional” come from the Latin word professio, which means a public declaration with the force of a promise.
The traditional professions are medicine, law, education, and clergy.
The marks of a profession are:
- Competence in a specialized body of knowledge and skill;
- An acknowledgment of specific duties and responsibilities toward the individuals it serves and toward society; and
- The right to train, admit, discipline, and dismiss its members for failure to sustain competence or observe the duties and responsibilities.
Professionalism requires that practitioners strive for excellence in the following areas, which should be modeled by mentors and teachers and become part of the attitudes, behaviors, and skills integral to patient care:
- Altruism: A physician is obligated to attend to the best interest of patients, rather than self-interest.
- Accountability: Physicians are accountable to their patients, to society on issues of public health, and to their profession.
- Excellence: Physicians are obligated to make a commitment to lifelong learning.
- Duty: A physician should be available and responsive when “on call,” accepting a commitment to service within the profession and the community.
- Honor and integrity: Physicians should be committed to being fair, truthful, and straightforward in their interactions with patients and the profession.
- Respect for others: A physician should demonstrate respect for patients and their families, other physicians and team members, medical students, residents, and fellows.
Of these six areas, each strikes a chord that resonates deeply.
But for me, it is altruism that continues to provide the most resonance for continuing the professional route chosen.
By definition, altruism is the attitude of caring about others and doing acts that help them, although one does not get anything for himself or herself by doing those acts.
For whatever reason in your core psychology, altruism seems to help you in times of duress and certainly provides a sense of personal comfort even during times of success.
You trust and depend on your altruism as a consistent compass bearing - a proverbial true north, if you will.
However, as you all recognize, in today’s health care industry, there is clearly much to be concerned about and so many complexities to manage among a wide range of competing priorities.
Idealism is easy to speak of, and yet quite difficult to enact upon on a regular basis.
Your patience and commitment to the six components of professionalism are challenged daily and routinely.
And many of your peers are struggling with maintaining balanced views on professional and personal issues.
You are indeed in a period when challenges may often seem to be more common than successes.
With this complexity, there is an even greater need for each of you (young or old) to look deep into what drives you as physicians.
What drives you to be leaders in society? What makes you want to create larger change in the world?
And what kinds of changes -or resurrection of core beliefs- are needed by each of you to make your chosen profession more satisfying?
It’s a profession that still carries the opportunity for you to achieve that intense professional satisfaction you all know exists.
“Forbearance,” is a term describing the quality of being patient and being able to forgive someone or to control oneself in a difficult situation.
We bring this up in the context of professionalism and altruism because it can provide an increased sense of purpose when your own life’s compass might be wavering.
Forbearance also can be used when considering the need to be patient while waiting for difficult times to pass and the return of more positive activities and influences within one’s life.
Please do not mistake this suggestion of forbearance as a synonym for that old catchphrase of “just suck it up, grin and bear it.”
You all have already had your fair share of dosing on delayed gratification. Forbearance is much deeper.
It is a philosophy (among many) that can help you stay connected to yourselves and to the worlds in which you choose to live.
You all have a purpose and passion to which you resonate.
The suggestion is to simply have forbearance as you each continue to seek those passions and purposes you cherish.
Each of you can be encouraged to continue seeking deeper levels for how you continue to draw upon your beliefs in the qualities of professionalism, altruism, and forbearance.
You can generate positive influence in this at all levels.