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How to Measure Professionalism

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Measuring cups, scales and rulers are tools used to quantify things by volume, weight and size. Professionalism, however, is not a "thing." You can't take a measuring stick to gauge professionalism. Professionalism is a quality that is measured by indirect means, such as through observable behaviors. Four factors of professionalism typically include competence, respectfulness or civility, character and dedication to the public good. While competence is quantifiable through exam scores, the other three factors require subjective approaches.

Measures of General Professionalism

Measure general professionalism by observing the behaviors of employees or job candidates. Observable marks of professionalism include attentiveness, honesty, punctuality, working until assigned tasks are completed and of good quality, communicating effectively, dressing in proper business attire, and exhibiting good interpersonal skills, including respectfulness and civility. A lack of professionalism is measured by observing opposite behaviors such as inappropriate dress, disrespectful attitudes, and showing a sense of entitlement or apathy.

Measures of Professionalism in Students

According to the Alliance for Clinical Education, professionalism is so critical in the medical field that measures are needed for students to mark them as ready to become practicing professionals. Student evaluations should take into account things like reliability, honesty and confidentiality. Alternatively, evidence of cheating and cynicism or abusing or harassing other students indicate a lack of student professionalism. The School of Dentistry at the University of California, San Francisco evaluates student professionalism on behaviors such as respecting others and putting the needs of patients first. Measures used for these evaluations include observing students for their willingness to follow directives and seek help when recognizing that a patient's needs exceed a student's capabilities.

Professionalism in Specific Fields

Professionalism in the literal sense means belonging to a profession and behaving according to the standards of that profession. Fields that commonly hold professionals to specific standards work in medicine, education, clergy and law. Measures of professionalism in this context include proving competency in the field and consistently behaving in a manner that reflects the standards of the profession. These standards are often defined in codes of conduct or ethics written by professional associations.

Professionalism in the Medical Field

Standards and measures of professionalism are particularly critical in the medical field. A charter for physicians endorsed by the American College of Physicians, the American Board of Internal Medicine, the European Federation of Internal Medicine and at least 90 professional associations calls for medical professionalism with the goal of protecting patient welfare and autonomy and promoting social justice. Per this charter, physician professionalism is measured by members of the field exhibiting behaviors of altruism, accountability, excellence consistently developed through ongoing learning, duty, honor, and integrity and respect for others. As important as these measures are for all practicing physicians, they are even more important for those teaching or mentoring other physicians, who must always hold themselves as role models.


A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.

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