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“Professionalism” in Medicine – a Vague Standard That Can Lead to Unfair Discipline

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | May 13, 2024 | 0 Comments

It almost goes without saying that medical professionals are expected to adhere to a standard of “professionalism” that is supposed to distinguish the practice of their profession from many others. Problems arise, however, when the definition of “professionalism” is vague, particularly when that vagueness results in discipline being administered in a discriminatory fashion.  

If you are a medical professional who has been accused of “unprofessional behavior” and believe the accusation is arbitrary, discriminatory, or unfair, the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team is here to help. Call us at 888.535.3686 or schedule a confidential consultation with one of our experienced professional license defense attorneys to discuss your situation and your options.  

Professionalism as a Disciplinary Standard in Medicine 

A recent New York Times article focused on the ways medical schools appear to have unfairly used the standard of medical professionalism to dismiss a disproportionate percentage of medical residents of color from their residencies. It discusses a study that found that during one year, 20 percent of medical students dismissed from their residencies were black, though black students made up only 5 percent of the total number of residents.  

The article also mentions a paper that reported on “unprofessional media content” based on its review of social media posts of 500 surgery trainees, citing as “unprofessional” posts showing the students with alcoholic drinks, wearing Halloween costumes, or “provocatively posing in bikinis/swimwear” even though drinking alcohol or wearing costumes or bikinis in settings outside of the workplace has little if anything to do with how professional the medical students were while on the job. (The paper was later recalled after protests.) 

Professionalism for Licensed Physicians 

A review of medical organization websites shows that similarly vague concepts of professionalism may apply once doctors have earned their medical licenses. The American Board of Family Medicine, for example, includes a long list of qualities that physicians are expected to demonstrate as professionals, including adhering to “high ethical and moral standards,” even as it acknowledges that “professionalism may be a belief system.” The American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation's definition of professionalism includes the expectation that physicians will be “held to the highest ethical standards” both as doctors “and as members of the larger community” and that they will demonstrate, among other qualities, “integrity” and “responsibility.”  

The problem with some of these definitions of professionalism is that they are capable of being interpreted differently depending on who is doing the interpreting. This is particularly dangerous when a medical professional's legal and social behavior outside of the workplace is used as grounds for disciplinary action.  

The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team Can Help You Protect Your License 

If you are a medical professional facing discipline, whether from a state licensing board, a professional certification board, or your employer, because of social media posts or other public or private behavior that has no impact on your ability to provide quality patient care, contact the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team to learn more about how we can help you defend your license and protect your rights. Our experienced license defense attorneys have helped medical professionals across the US who have been accused of professional misconduct for both work-related and non-work-related activities. We understand the laws, standards, and procedures that apply in disciplinary proceedings and will vigorously protect your rights and defend you against misconduct allegations.  

Call the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team today at 888.535.3686 or use our contact form to schedule a confidential consultation to learn more about how we can help you protect your license, your reputation, and your career.  

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento has unparalleled experience fighting for the futures of his professional clients nationwide. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!

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