What Is Professionalism? A 15-Point Training Tool for the Staff in a Healthcare Organization


By Laura Hills, DA
March 23, 2020

How often do we say, “I wish my staff members performed their jobs with more professionalism”? 

But what exactly do we mean when we say that? We recognize and appreciate professional behavior when we see it, but can we define it? Practice management advisor Dr. Laura Hills of the Blue Pencil Institute offers a comprehensive outline providing 15 characteristics of healthcare organization professionalism.

If we want to hold our staff (as well as ourselves!) to a high standard of professionalism, we’d better be able to describe what it means.

Being a “pro” is more than credentials, diplomas, and certificates. Nor is it tied to income level. True professionalism is characterized by behavior and attitude. Training and experience - longevity within a field - can provide a good foundation, but without appropriate conduct and mindset, they don’t add up to “professionalism.” 

Here are 15 character traits you can use to measure both your own and your staff’s professionalism:

  1. A primary orientation to public and community interest: Professionals will do whatever is necessary to serve and protect the patient and his or her family.
  2. A high degree of self-control and ethical standards: Professionals seldom lose their cool. You won’t often see true professionals whine, gripe, or roll their eyes.
  3. A heavy emphasis on excellence and good service: They do their best to do their best -always.
  4. An obvious commitment to honesty and integrity: They do the right thing, even when doing so brings great challenge or even high personal cost.
  5. An inward satisfaction over a job well done: Professionals aren’t primarily motivated by their paychecks. They’re not “in it for the money.”
  6. A commitment to improving skills and staying current in their fields: They become lifelong learners who are always curious and searching for a better way to do things.
  7. An active role in developing standards for the practice: Professionals are leaders among fellow employees. They promote both the company’s and individual coworkers’ well-being.
  8. An exemplary representative of the practice and the medical profession: Folks they come into contact with think more highly of the practice and the profession because of them.
  9. An excellent ability to communicate: If not a natural trait, professionals work especially hard to acquire the skills to get the point across clearly and effectively.
  10. A noticeable dislike for gossip and uninformed criticism: You won’t find professionals spreading rumors or sniping at others - on or off the job.
  11. An attention to projecting a professional image in both appearance and behavior: They use appropriate tone in speech, avoid foul language, and pay attention to dress and personal grooming.
  12. An outstanding attendance record: They show up. They don’t abuse sick leave or personal time off. They arrive on time and sometimes stay late to ensure the job gets done.
  13. A willingness to accept responsibility for their actions and criticism: You won’t find professionals looking for someone else to blame for their mistakes.
  14. An unwavering respect for privacy and confidentiality: They don’t break confidences. They don’t tell secrets - not even to “just one” other person.
  15. A thoughtful decisiveness: Professionals avoid “analysis paralysis” or a “tunnel vision” approach to problem-solving. They weigh the options, make a decision, and move on. 

Use these 15 points to teach every member of organization what you want when you say, “We’ve got to be more professional!”

When you and your staff emphasize professionalism, you will find that your organization will provide a higher level of care and support for your patients. You will all take great satisfaction and pride in knowing that each of you plays a vital role in quality healthcare delivery.


Stop Offering Career Ladders. Start Offering Career Portfolios.
How to Confront a Bully at Work