Defining Professionalism

Compassionate, pleasant, intelligent, and a team player is a short list of significant characteristics in which define professionalism. Professionalism is often mistaken as being good at a profession. For example is a lawyer professional because he or she won the court case? In the field of physical therapy a therapist must embody certain qualities to be professional. Working day in and day out with the public one must have a pleasant personality to patients as well as being personable. Most patients are not thrilled to participate in physical therapy; the patient seeks therapy because of an injury that limits functional activities. To be professional a physical therapist must show compassion and empathy in effort to understand how the patient is feeling and how this injury has affected his or her life physically, mentally and socially.

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While expressing compassion and empathy it is imperative for the physical therapist to develop a relationship with the patient. A relationship must be established in order for the patient to be compliant through each session of physical therapy and trust the knowledge of the physical is factual and ultimately going to bring them one step closer to achieving the goal that was established on evaluation day. The clinician should be respectful to everyone involved with the patient including themselves, the patient’s family, healthcare professionals, and insurance providers.

2. Patients will have a high expectation of their physical therapist and want to see their physical therapist embody professionalism. The patient would want to feel comfortable in the clinic and feel respected at all times. It is important for the patient to feel as if there receiving optimal care each visit, otherwise they will not want to continue with physical therapy. I foresee the patient wanting my attention during the majority of the treatment and want explanations as to why some of the modalities and techniques are being used throughout sessions. I will be obligated to inform the patient using layman’s terms without overwhelming them with scientific language. As the professional, confidence is vital, using phrases such as I think so and It should help may sound like uncertainty to a patient. As a result the patient may not trust the input of the physical therapist if they do not sound confident which may alter the patient’s beliefs to his or her intervention for physical therapy. It will be expected to see colleagues working together and creating a fun, happy, and healthy atmosphere, in hopes that I will be a mentor for some colleagues in the clinic.

I envision that patients will look to me to figure out how to get them back to recovery and trust my professional opinion. Patients will expect me to critically think about how visits are going and figure out if physical therapy is helping the issue or if the issue is remaining the same. It will be expected of me to motivate the patient that does not see the light at the end of the tunnel to keep working hard, and constantly remind them to not quit just yet because progress will take some time.

3. Professionalism consists of multiple categories that are further expanded within each category. A common theme in all of the documents touched upon multiple aspects that are geared toward professionalism. These categories touched upon knowledge, communication skills, critical thinking and problem solving, time management, constructive feedback, responsibility, and obligation to continuing education. In order to be a successful physical therapist it is imperative to exemplify traits in each of these categories. A physical therapist may not score perfectly in every category but they must be on the higher spectrum of the trait and or be working to improve in that area.1 Each document had its own way of portraying similar information. Hayes relayed multiple scenarios during student clinical that did not meet the expectations of the clinical instructor.2 Examples of unprofessional behavior included working on personal affairs when the student should have been timely with patients as well as inability to complete tasks as well as proper communication skills.2 While Hayes’s document was more focused around inappropriate behaviors and scenarios that occurred between the clinical instructor and physical therapy students the Professional behaviors for the 21st century3 document was geared toward defining and professional behaviors and breaking down the developmental stages at which the student should meet during his or her academia level in the physical therapy program.

Each year of the program there is a different expectation for the groupings. The third year of the program the expectations of students are more advanced than first year students.3 Numerous tasks such as application of knowledge, problem solving, time management, use of instruments and modalities should be mastered by year three of the program.3 The last document compared Professionalism in Physical Therapy: Core Values1 provides a scale on all of the different categories that resemble professionalism. This scale allowed clinical instructors and students to ultimately see which groupings are being mastered and which groupings that still in need for improvement.

These documents aid with defining professionalism. They help elaborate on the personal, social, and professional pieces that go into professionalism as a whole. The social responsibility that is necessary for a physical therapist to exhibit includes promoting changes in laws, regulations standards and partaking in political activism.1 It is now understood that professionalism must be taught and learned with clinical experiences and expanded upon each level of the physical therapy program as well as improving professionalism as a professional therapist because there will always be room for improvement.

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Defining Professionalism. (2019, Apr 12). Retrieved November 29, 2022 , from

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