Background: Professionalism has received considerable attention in recent years, mostly within academic settings. Little attention has been given to the perspectives of practicing physicians on professionalism. This study was designed to determine whether prevailing definitions of and guidelines for professionalism accurately reflect the perspectives and experiences of practicing community-based family physicians.
Method: Eighteen practicing family physicians in Seattle were recruited from nonacademic settings to participate in focus groups during 2003. Transcripts were analyzed for content themes related to professionalism.
Results: Analysis revealed several tensions among values that the physician participants described balancing in their practices. Balancing organizational expectations and individual physician or patient values was a major source of tension.
Conclusions: Practicing family physicians describe various tensions as they attempt to balance their own values with competing values of their patients, the organizations for which many work, and stated values of their profession. Such tensions among values have seldom been described in past literature and should be considered in designing medical curricula at all levels.