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Physicians play a unique societal role as professionals, requiring a distinct body of knowledge, skills and behaviours dedicated to the health of individuals, communities and society. As such, they are accountable to themselves, their patients and families and society. They are guided by codes of ethics, commitments and accountability that form the basis of an understanding between the physician and society. In turn, society grants physicians the privilege of professionally-led regulation.*


“Physician professionalism comprises a set of attitudes, knowledge and skills based on clinical and/or medical administrative competence, communication skills, ethics, societal and legal duties, all of which result in judicious behaviours that demonstrate a commitment to excellence, respect, integrity, empathy, accountability and altruism.”**


  1. Accountability to self
    1. Maintain competence
      1. Evaluate personal professional competence
      2. Recognize personal limitations of competence
      3. Pursue ongoing personal education to maintain competence, based on personal evaluation and/or peer review
    2. Practice without impairment from substance, ill health or other incapacity
  2. Accountability to patients and their families
    1. Provide care that meets or exceeds expected professional standards
    2. Accept responsibility for ensuring continuity of care
    3. Maintain patient confidentiality
    4. Describe and implement current ethical and legal aspects of the consent and capacity process
    5. Demonstrate a commitment to patient safety and quality improvement
      1. Recognize that providing quality care includes attention to the specific psychosocial needs of patients
      2. Make timely, full and honest disclosure to the patient and/or family in situations where a patient safety incidents occur
      3. Encourage and assist others in the prevention and disclosure of patient safety incidents
    6. Describe the organization of practice
  3. Accountability to the profession
    1. Abide by the profession’s rules, regulations and ethical codes
    2. Assume responsibility for one’s own actions
    3. Report a colleague’s actions or behaviours as required or appropriate, using the applicable reporting mechanism
    4. Maintain a professional relationship with third parties and avoid situations where a conflict of interest may arise (drug company interactions, business interests)
    5. Maintain confidentiality of professional documents (test materials, student evaluations)
  4. Integrity
    1. Behave according to the highest standards of integrity, including ethical conduct, honesty, compassion and dedication to the welfare of patients and society
    2. Observe appropriate and/or legal boundaries in relationships with patients and health professionals
    3. Avoid abuse of privilege (e.g., staff to nurse, resident to student)
    4. Serve as a source of knowledge and/or skill; and support and teach others whenever appropriate
    5. Recognize, understand and act appropriately with respect to complex ethical issues including
      1. euthanasia
      2. medically assisted dying
      3. maternal-fetal conflict
      4. abortion
      5. advanced reproductive technology
      6. genetic testing and manipulation
  5. Altruism
    1. Put the needs of others before one’s own as the foundation of professional behaviour
    2. Serve, when necessary, beyond normal duty or expectations, keeping in mind essential personal/professional balance

* Cruess, S.R., Johnston, S., & Cruess, R.L. (2004). “Profession”: a working definition for medical educators. , 16 (1), 74-76 as cited in The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. (2005). Professional. CanMEDS 2005 Framework. Retrieved August 25, 2009 from