Medical Student Professionalism and Self-Awareness

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) defined and outlined six Core Competencies that they identified as the cornerstones for practicing residence physicians. They are:

  • Medical and Scientific Knowledge
  • Patient Care and Prevention
  • Professionalism and Self-Awareness
  • Practiced-based and Life-Long Learning
  • Systems-based and Interprofessional Practice
  • Interpersonal and Communication Skills

The College of Medicine uses these six Core Competencies to assess student performance by a program of assessment that is integrated across the curriculum beyond any one subject or course. We are highlighting professionalism and self-awareness in a separate section because all medical professionals are expected to treat all people with respect, compassion, and dignity.

Embarking on a career in medicine means accepting the responsibilities and unique privileges of these professions. These include self-monitoring and self-governance. The responsibilities for these professional duties begin the moment that an individual starts medical school. We ask medical students to acknowledge it is a great honor and privilege to study and work in medicine. As a member of the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine community, students promise to uphold the highest standards of ethical and compassionate behavior while learning, caring for others, performing research, participating in co-curricular activities, and any activity in which you are representing the college. Each student is expected to abide by the tenets in the Professionalism Honor Oath throughout their medical education:

“I pledge to conduct myself with integrity, in spirit and action, advance on individual merit, and respect my peers, patients, colleagues and all members of the educational, clinical and research communities. I will uphold the professional and ethical values essential to the practice of medicine, and remain committed to the health and well-being of my patients and those in need.”

Students will strive to uphold the spirit and the letter of this code during their years at the college and throughout their career in medicine. Abiding by the College of Medicine Medical Student Professional Code of Conduct is a communal responsibility. Each medical student is expected to uphold that responsibility individually and in others.

Professionalism and Self-Awareness

The Embodiment of Professionalism: The history of medicine and science is replete with calls for professional conduct. Increasing attention is being focused on professionalism as the health care system adapts to a number of societal, scientific, and financial stresses. In Academic Medicine, Swick identifies desirable behaviors to include conduct that demonstrates an individual (Swick, H.M. Toward a normative definition of medical professionalism. Academic Medicine, 2000;75: 612-616):

  • Subordinates their own interests to the interests of others.
  • Adheres to high ethical and moral standards.
  • Responds to societal needs, and their behaviors reflect a social contract with the communities served.
  • Evinces core humanistic values, including honesty and integrity, caring and compassion, altruism and empathy, respect for others, and trustworthiness.
  • Exercises accountability for themselves and for their colleagues.
  • Demonstrates a lifelong commitment to excellence.
  • Exhibits a commitment to scholarship and to advancing their field.
  • Deals with high levels of complexity and uncertainty.
  • Reflects upon their actions and decisions.

Swick also states that professionalism must be grounded in what individuals actually do and how they act, both individually and collectively. He asserts that professionalism consists of “those behaviors by which we demonstrate that we are worthy of the trust bestowed upon us by our patients and the public, because we are working for the patients’ and the public’s good.”

Members of the College of Medicine community echo and affirm these principles.

To be recognized as a premiere medical school requires exceptional and committed individuals. A working and learning culture that is based upon our articulated core values and guiding principles is a key element in realizing our mission and vision. Moreover, it is critical to attracting, retaining, and nurturing the members of the college community. For this reason, and to warrant the trust bestowed upon us by patients, families and society at large, all members of the college community are committed to fostering and embodying professionalism as engendered by adherence to our core values and guiding principles.

Honesty and Confidentiality

  • I will maintain the highest standards of honesty.
  • If engaged in research, I will conduct these activities in an unbiased manner, report the results. truthfully, and credit ideas developed and worked on by others.
  • I will never misrepresents or falsifies information and/or actions
  • I will regard confidentiality as a central obligation of patient care.
  • I will be truthful with college faculty, staff, and other affiliates.


  • I will recognize my own limitations and will seek help when my level of experience or physical or mental health is inadequate to handle a situation on my own.
  • I will conduct myself professionally — in my demeanor, use of language, and appearance — in the presence of patients, in the classroom, in health care settings, or in other domains in my role as a medical student or representing the WSU College of Medicine.
  • I will not use alcohol or drugs in any way that could interfere with my clinical or educational responsibilities.
  • I will not use my professional position to engage in romantic or sexual relationships with patients or members of their families.
  • I will completes tasks in a timely fashion (papers, reports, appointments).
  • I will not need reminders about educational responsibilities in order to complete them.
  • I will be appropriately available for professional responsibilities in representing the WSU College of Medicine.


  • I will never misuse my professional position for personal gain.
  • I will take responsibility for what I say and do.
  • I will recognize my own limitations and will seek help when appropriate.
  • I will accept and incorporate feedback in a non‐resistant and non‐defensive manner.
  • I will accept responsibility for failure or errors.
  • I will interact with all members of the health care team in a considerate and cooperative manner.
  • I will uphold a educational atmosphere conducive to learning.
  • I will limit discussions of patients to members of the health care team in settings removed from the public ear (e.g. not in elevators, hallways, cafeterias, social media, etc).


  • I will respect the dignity of others, by treating them with civility and understanding.
  • I will contribute to creating an atmosphere for teaching and learning.
  • I will regard privacy and confidentiality as core obligations.
  • I will not tolerate unlawful discrimination, violence, or sexual assault by not engaging in this kind of behavior.
  • I will judge my colleagues fairly and attempt to resolve conflicts in a manner that respects the dignity of every person involved.