January 2013

Measuring the Immeasurable Core Competency of Professionalism

Author Affiliations


Author Affiliation: Division of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Department of Surgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina.

JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2013;139(1):12-13. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2013.1071

Recently, I was faced with the following question while completing a resident evaluation:

Although I have a general understanding of the question, it struck me as to how one really measures something like professionalism. It seems to me that it is similar to the difficulties in trying to measure beauty or kindness. What criteria would I use to determine if someone was at expected competency vs above expected competency vs greatly exceeds expectations? Seeking some guidance, I referred to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) definition of professionalism from their website ( It states under “professionalism” that “Residents must demonstrate a commitment to carrying out professional responsibilities and an adherence to ethical principles.”1

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