Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

The Taxonomy of Professionalism: Reframing the Academic Pursuit of Professional Development

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

The Taxonomy of Professionalism: Reframing the Academic Pursuit of Professional Development

Article excerpt


The professional development of pharmacy students has been the focus of considerable attention in recent years. Various terms are used to describe the topic, such as professionalization, professional socialization, and professionalism, which all mean basically the same thing--to demonstrate the attitudes, values, and behaviors of a professional. Regardless of the terminology, inculcating professional behavior into the performance pattern of pharmacy students is no easy task. Pharmacy appears to be a profession in search of professionalism.

The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy's Argus Commission reported in 1991 that many pharmacists lack pride in their profession and do not hold their professional self-worth in high regard. (1) In 1995, Chalmers et al reported the findings of an AACP committee that was charged with exploring how schools of pharmacy could promote a professional/pharmaceutical care philosophy among students and faculty members. (2) They found that faculty members had a limited understanding of the professional socialization process and that schools needed to plan professional development and academic learning as mutually dependent and reinforcing educational goals. The 2000 White Paper on Pharmacy Student Professionalism addressed as its primary focus inconsistencies in how pharmacy students develop professionally. (3) The report's conclusion stated, "A combination of factors in both pharmaceutical education and pharmacy practice serves to create inconsistent professional socialization throughout the pharmacy education process. This inconsistent socialization threatens the status of pharmacy as a profession and justifies immediate action on the part of pharmacy students, educators and practicing pharmacists." In 2003, Hammer et al published the most comprehensive review to date on pharmacy student professionalism. (4) Their report includes a call to action based on, "the critical and comprehensive need to address professionalism."


Hammer and colleagues identified a lack of definition and of focus as challenges to developing student professionalism. (4) Identifying optimal learning outcomes for professional development is difficult as long as the academy lacks consensus on a clear definition of professionalism. When planning comprehensive educational strategies, the desired outcomes need to be defined with specificity and clarity. Hammer et al suggested that if faculty members interpret professionalism differently, the professional development of students might be inconsistent and erratic despite the best of faculty intentions. (4) This raises the possibility that while trying to solve the problem, faculty members might be inadvertently exacerbating it, due to differing perceptions about the nature of professionalism. One example that has been observed at Palm Beach Atlantic University relates to inconsistencies with which faculty members are in support of a dress code as part of the professionalization program. Students come to realize that some faculty members who routinely ignore dress code violations are not in support of the policy. This phenomenon not only undermines the policy, but the lack of faculty alignment in one area of professionalism breeds an insidious skepticism among students toward other professionalism initiatives as well.

Previously published professionalism assessment tools have included a broad range of behavioral traits. (5,6) Pharmacist performance depends upon some traits that are uniquely professional, along with others that are equally important but not specifically limited to the professional realm, such as effective communication, honesty, and accountability--traits that apply universally to all job categories. The White Paper on Pharmacy Student Professionalism lists 10 characteristics of a profession and 10 traits of a professional. (3) The Medical Professionalism Project identified defining traits of professionalism from a physician perspective. …

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