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July 14, 2010

The Role of Professionalism and Self-regulation in Detecting Impaired or Incompetent Physicians

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Institute for Ethics, American Medical Association, Chicago, Illinois.

JAMA. 2010;304(2):210-212. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.945

The term professional is used in various ways. A professional might be a certified expert, someone devoted to the continuous study (“practice”) of a complex craft, or someone granted the authority to carry out tasks and provide services that others are not allowed to perform. A professional might subsume personal interests to pursue a client's or the public's good. Or a professional, as compared with an amateur, might simply be someone paid for what he or she does.

Given this range of meanings, questions about which occupations are professions, and what comprises professional behavior, are long-standing.1 Yet medicine is almost universally recognized as a “classic” profession.2 Moreover, regardless of how profession is defined, professionalism, like other “-isms” (consumerism, humanism, egotism, Catholicism, and the like), is a belief system. Specifically, professionalism can best be understood as an ideology declaring an important role for professions and professionals in organizing and delivering certain goods and services in society.

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