Best Evidence Medical and Health Professional Education

Teaching professionalism in medical education: A best evidence in medical education (BEME) systematic review



This review aims to identify the best evidence of teaching medical professionalism to medical students.  There is no consensus in the literature as to the best methods for teaching professionalism, nor even on how professionalism in medicine should be defined.  While many papers have been published on teaching medical professionalism, little evidence of effectiveness is included in them.

Through a systematic search of the literature we identified 217 papers, of which we deemed 43 to be of higher quality. We also identified eleven books on teaching professionalism. There was a wide diversity in study types, and most papers were of the viewpoint/opinion variety.  Since we were interested in the conceptual basis of teaching professionalism, and since much of what has been published recently (and most of what has been highly cite) consist of this type of paper, we included them in our review.

We conclude that there is as yet no unifying theoretical or practical model to integrate the teaching of professionalism into the medical curriculum that has been validated over time or across institutions as being effective.  Evident themes in the literature are that role modelling and personal reflections, ideally guided by faculty, are the important elements in current teaching programs, and are widely held to be the most effective techniques for developing professionalism.  While it is generally held that professionalism should be part of the whole of a medical curriculum, the specifics of sequence, depth, detail, and the nature of how to integrate professionalism with other curriculum elements remain matters of evolving theory.


Review Group

Hudson Birden (lead reviewer), Senior Lecturer, Population Health and Clinical Leadership, University Centre for Rural Health (UCRH), North Coast, Lismore, NSW, Australia. The UCRH is a collaboration between the Sydney Medical School, University of Western Sydney School of Medicine, and the University of Wollongong Graduate School of Medicine.

Nel Glass – Research Professor of Nursing, School of Nursing, Midwifery & Paramedicine Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia and holds an Adjunct Professorial position at the University of Connecticut, USA.

Ian Wilson – Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching) at the Graduate School of Medicine, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia.

Michelle Harrison – Faculty Liaison Librarian in the Medical Library at the University of Sydney, Australia.

Tim Usherwood – Head and Sub-Dean, Department of General Practice, Sydney Medical School, Westmead, NSW Australia.

Duncan Nass –Resident Medical Officer at Bankstown/Campbelltown Hospital NSW, Australia.


Publication Details

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