I googled the word “professionalism” and this is the top definition that appears in the search results: “the competence or skill expected of a professional; ‘the key to quality and efficiency is professionalism.’ ”
I must agree, Google. Competence of the practitioner instills trust, confidence, and builds a strong rapport with the patient. Competence is why there are three separate testing components before an optometrist is National Board Certified. As the OD3s are starting to study for part one of boards, which we take in March 2014, we are shifting to a sense of preparation rather than conventional studying. We are preparing to be skillful clinicians for the benefit of our patients who will rely on us exclusively in the near future. Preparing for the board exams gives a sense of maturity and tangibility to our careers.
I’m sure we have all been to a store or salon where the employees are chatting amongst each other while they work. Chatting can quickly turn into gossiping. While teenagers working at an ice-cream shop, for example, are almost expected to show this behavior, it is totally unprofessional in a structured workplace of adults. Being a professional means checking your personal opinions at the office door and conducting yourself with diplomatic poise.
I have a theory that once you’ve mastered your craft at work, your mind has room to wander because it’s not totally consumed by your tasks anymore. Other thoughts then have room to pop up in your brain, like thinking of a grocery list while still doing your daily routine. But when an employee starts to gossip aloud—whether it is about customers, other employees, or unrelated individuals—that crosses the line into being unprofessional and reflects poorly on the workplace.
I would argue that the most critical profession to maintain professionalism in is the medical field. Clinicians are the role models for the community around them. According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2012, less than 2% of Americans hold a doctoral degree. As a very small group of lucky individuals providing care to our communities, we should be the best examples of professionalism for our peers.
I will admit it is very tempting to engage in some variation of unprofessional behavior. How can we resist the temptation? Maybe eliminating that extra room in our heads where distracting thoughts arise is the solution. If we keep ourselves constantly challenged by our work, then there should be no tendency to get off course. You can foster a more challenging environment by researching entities you see in clinic that you are not 100% comfortable with yet. This would provide you with a more detailed etiology and new treatment options, for example. Also, taking on projects in collaboration with other practitioners can give you new opportunities for becoming more well-rounded and networking with other clinicians. Comprising new advertisement and patient satisfaction strategies to improve business is a huge additional component to private practice optometry. Acting in terms of bettering your care regimens and your professional knowledge will ensure you are always growing as a clinician.
As Google taught me, professionalism is the key to “quality and efficiency.” If I have learned anything in clinic, it is that quality and efficiency are the two most important things my preceptors want from me in my patient exams. Both of these increase as you become more comfortable with any case that presents to you, along with having a solid foundation of knowledge supporting what you’re doing in your management.