Of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education's six general competencies, professionalism has posed the greatest challenges for medical educators to define and teach. Currently, professionalism is largely taught experientially through role modeling, which has many shortcomings as a sole teaching strategy. Namely, role modeling does not involve an explicit curriculum, the skill is difficult to teach or develop, and physicians may be reluctant to talk about lapses in their own behaviors regarding professionalism.
In this article, the authors propose instead using the model of emotional intelligence (EI) to define key elements of professionalism and as the basis for their proposed curriculum for teaching professionalism. EI is a well-developed construct and consists of four types of abilities: emotional self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. EI is grounded in effective performance and leadership success rather than in moral right or wrong.
The authors propose that the EI abilities suggest specific curricula which, when successfully taught by faculty and learned by physicians-in-training, would allow trainees' professionalism to be recognized and measured in ways that are not currently possible with existing hidden curricula. The authors hope that those who develop policies regarding professionalism and those who train physicians will find this construct a useful way of developing curricula for the critical professionalism competency.