Merriam-Webster defines it as follows:
Professionalism (n): 1) the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person. 2) the following of a profession (such as athletics) for gain or livelihood.
At first glance, neither of these seems to capture what we commonly mean when we describe someone as being “professional” as a health care provider, and perhaps professionalism for us is something that is more obvious when it is missing. But another way to look at professionalism is to define what is valued in the particular profession. The UVA ASPIRE values enunciate “delivering excellent care through the lens of helpfulness, positivity, kindness and competency”. In our own health care providers, we expect an individual whose primary motivation is our welfare. We want someone who is a master of her craft, superior in his practice, but not superior in her demeanor. We also value healthcare providers who practice what Osler called aequanimitas (in English equanimity), or evenness of mind, especially under stress.
Ours an inherently stressful occupation — stressful for our patients and families but also stressful for us as providers. Developing the trait of evenness in the face of stress is valuable for our patients and their families, but also for ourselves. The first step is recognizing the importance of equanimity, and recognizing when we are not as calm as we would like to be. Recognizing after the fact is good. Learning to recognize during is better. Learning to recognize conditions that will lead us to lose our cool, and learning how to improve our resilience is best.
UVA is committed to supporting its employees to be the best they can be, and have the best work experiences that can have. Accordingly, you will be seeing increased opportunities for developing mindfulness, emotional resilience, support for you and your peers, teamwork exercises, and other tools to improve our resilience and our professionalism. We put the patient at the center of all we do. Outstanding healthcare starts with outstanding professionals.