PURPOSE: To elucidate the components of professionalism specific to plastic surgery, we surveyed surgeons, anesthesiologists, and fourth-year medical students at a public university. We sought to define the central components of professionalism in plastic surgery, to determine the difference in perception of professionalism by plastic surgeons (PSs), compared to other practitioners (OPs), and to improve education in professionalism by obtaining data on attitudes of professionalism among practitioners. METHODS: Using SurveyMonkey, we distributed a questionnaire to members of the Departments of Surgery and Anesthesia and fourth-year medical students. The responses of PSs (n = 22) were compared to non-plastic surgeons (OPs, n = 294). RESULTS: Of the 594 participants, 316 completed the survey (response rate, 53%). Participants consisted of 211 (66.8%) medical students, 60 (19%) residents, 5 (1.6%) fellows, 28 (8.9%) attending physicians, 6 (1.9%) nonphysician providers, and 6 (1.9%) administrators. Both PS and OP listed "the development and conformance to a body of ethics" the most important component of professionalism. Most participants thought that professionalism could be taught, and assessed. Plastic surgeons listed "not enough mentors" (63.2%) as the main obstacle to teaching professionalism, whereas OP listed "not a priority in medical school curriculum" (48.2%). Both PS and OP cited substance abuse, fraud, and sexual misconduct as egregious displays of unprofessional behavior. Opinions differed between the groups, regarding aspects of professionalism pertaining to plastic surgery. When asked about "charity raffles" for cosmetic surgery, 72.2% of PS ranked this as a 4 or 5 (with 5 representing the most unprofessional behavior), compared to only 46.7% of OP who assigned this a 4 or 5. For the scenario of a PS deceiving patients, by showing them another surgeon's before and after photographs, 84.2% of PS assigned this a 4 or 5, whereas 71.0% of OP ranked this a 4 or 5. Both groups cited working while impaired with alcohol as the most egregious example of unprofessional behavior. CONCLUSIONS: The opinions of PSs mirror those of their colleagues, regarding general components of professionalism. However, PSs are more conservative and cautious than their peers, perhaps due to successful educational efforts in mentoring, training, and maintenance of certification.
- surgical education
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