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Student government focuses on professionalism

Real-life scenarios offer examples of what not to do

By Richard Heck

Becoming an osteopathic physician involves more than mastering human anatomy and clinical practice.

How to dress, treat colleagues and talk to patients—and even where to use the bathroom at work (hint: there are usually physician/staff restrooms)—all these factors affect a physician’s perceived professionalism. Prompted by Dean Jack Brose, D.O., the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Student Government Association presented a December panel discussion on the topic. 

Attended by first- and second-year medical students, the discussion focused on professional behavior in anticipation of these students entering third-year clinical rotations in hospitals, clinics and physicians’ offices. Four scenarios were presented, all representing unprofessional conduct by medical students and residents.

“There are different ways to apply professionalism to our lives, which helps ease the transition to your third and fourth year (of medical school),” said moderator Christina Gonzalez, OMS IV. Members of the panel included third-year medical students Kim Jackson and Jen Lykens, both of whom are in the midst of clinical rotations at O’Bleness Memorial Hospital in Athens; Jay Shubrook, D.O. (’96), assistant professor of family medicine; and Gerald Rubin, D.O., associate professor of family medicine.

According to Gonzalez, “professionalism is an attitude or a way to conduct oneself.” Perception, she said, plays a significant role.

For example, in the first scenario, a medical student on her first day of clinical rotations asks what time she can leave both for lunch and for the day. Panelists agreed that while the question leaves a poor perception, inquiring about schedules, protocols and other work-related issues is appropriate.

Shubrook reminded the students that they should consider themselves guests when rotating through a physician’s office or a hospital, where patients remain the primary concern. “Everything about my practice is the patient,” he said. In the interest of serving patients, he added, “you are going to have all kinds of things thrown at you during rotations. Just roll with the punches.”

In another scenario, presented as a video performed by OU-COM students, a student chews gum, listens to an iPod, greets a resident preceptor by the wrong name and asks questions using a patient’s name. All four gaffs scream of unprofessionalism, Gonzalez noted.

“It may seem like common sense, but not to everybody,” Gonzalez said. “It’s important to go over these things and facilitate a discussion here.”

Lykens noted that because preceptors, physicians, nurses and other medical workers routinely converse, news about bad behavior spreads quickly. “It can make a bad impression before you even get there,” she said, adding that an individual’s lack of professionalism also reflects poorly on OU-COM.

Shubrook admitted that mistakes will happen, but students should own up to such lapses. “Take responsibility, but heaven forbid it should happen twice,” he said. “Most people will give you credit for admitting a mistake, but only if you follow through with better actions.”

Lykens emphasized that professionalism cannot be left at the clinic doors, especially in small towns like Athens, where Lykens frequently runs into her patients. “You are always held to a higher standard as a physician,” she said.

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Last updated: 01/28/2016