Professionalism: Transition From Student to Professional

Higgins, Rose, Debra Knight, Sharon Moser, and Carla Groh


Making the transition from student to professional with confidence to assume responsibility and a high level of autonomy in a health care team is difficult at best. Achieving that metamorphasis in a 2-3 year time span is quite challenging in this younger population. We attempted to measure components of professionalism during a student‟s training, comparing self-assessments to established medical professionals opinions of our students.


A descriptive study was conducted using a 5-item Likert-type scale based on a survey instrument first constructed by the American Board of Internal Medicine, and refined by our team to reflect the standards of the PA profession. Self-assessment questionnaires were given to 43 students at the onset of the core curriculum as a pretest measure in September, 2005. A posttest was administered at the conclusion of two semesters of didactic study to the remaining 34 students. Self-assessments were again obtained at the conclusion of the clinical year. Preceptors (physicians, PAs) rated those same students at the conclusion of their professional training.


Students measured high in all aspects of 12 dimensions of professionalism except for their perception of their ability to give or receive criticism. The dimensions of commitment to the service of others, open-mindedness and their opinion of the value of professional attire all went down during their training. Gender differences in students were apparent ; males rated themselves as more open-minded and committed to equality of care but less committed to lifelong learning when they started the program, but dropped to equivalency with the female group as their training concluded. Professionals (preceptors who had worked with the students for their final 2 month rotation) at the conclusions of training rated the student group very high on all aspects of professionalism, and their ratings were consistently higher in all dimensions than student self-ratings.


Students self-perception of professionalism is high, perhaps due to selfselection to a demanding professional school. The dimension of giving and receiving criticism was low at the time of entrance, and did not change during their graduate school training. . Some aspects of the self-assessment of professionalism actually decreased during the two year period, most likely due to the narcissism , competitiveness and rigors of academic demands. By preceptor ratings, the students demonstrated higher levels of professionalism in all dimensions than they believe they actually possess. Gender differences were noted in some dimensions, specifically commitment to the equality of care, open-mindedness and commitment to lifelong learning.