CanMEDS Professional
Physicians as Professionals

Physicians as Professionals


In this module we will explore:

  • what is meant by the term professional

  • where the expectations for professional behaviour arise

  • how they are codified and enforced



What does professionalism in medicine mean to you?

How do you define professional?




There are many definitions of professional and various ideas about what constitutes professional practice in medicine but most include:

  • a code of ethics

  • a commitment to clinical competence

  • appropriate attitudes and behaviors

  • integrity

  • altruism

  • personal well-being

  • protection and promotion of the public good within their domain of practice



This working definition is provided by Canadian Doctors Cruess, Johnston and Cruess, international leaders in the field:

"Physicians have a unique societal role as professionals who are dedicated to the health and caring of others.  Their work requires the mastery of a complex body of knowledge and skills, as well as the art of medicine.  As such, the Professional Role is guided by codes of ethics and a commitment to clinical competence, the embracing of appropriate attitudes and behaviors integrity, altruism, personal well-being, and to the promotion of the public good within their domain.  These commitments form the basis of a social contract between a physician and society. Society, in return, grants physicians the privilege of profession-led regulation with the understanding that they are accountable to those served." [1]



1. Cruess S, Johnston S, Cruess R. “Profession”: a working definition for medical educators. Teaching and Learning in Medicine. 2004;16(1): 74-6.

2. Faarvang KL, da Silva JA. Competencies in rheumatology: a European framework. Best Practice and Research Clinical Rheumatology 2009;23:145-160. accessed April 12, 2011

All references for this section