Sometimes you can't make it on your own: The impact of a professionalism curriculum on the attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors of an academic plastic surgery practice

Charles Scott Hultman, Eric G. Halvorson, Donna Kaye, Richard Helgans, Michael O. Meyers, Pamela A. Rowland, Anthony A. Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Introduction: Professionalism is now recognized as a core competency for graduate medical education and maintenance of certification. However, few models exist in plastic surgery that define, teach, and assess professionalism as a competency. The purpose of this project was to evaluate the effectiveness of a professionalism curriculum in an academic plastic surgery practice. Methods: We created and conducted a 6-wk, 12-h course for health care professionals in plastic surgery (faculty, residents, nurses, medical students). Teaching methods included didactic lectures, journal club, small group discussions, and book review. Topics included: (1) Professionalism in Our Culture, (2) Leadership Styles, (3) Modeling Professional Behavior, (4) Leading Your Team, (5) Managing Oneself, and (6) Leading While You Work. Using Kirkpatrick methodology to assess perception of the course (level 1 data), learning of the material (level 2 data), effect on behavior (level 3 data), and impact on the organization (level 4 data), we compiled participant questionnaires, scores from pre- and post-tests, and such metrics as incidence of sentinel events (defined as infractions requiring involvement by senior administrators), number of patient complaints reported to Patient Relations, and patient satisfaction (Press Ganey surveys), for the 6 mo before and after the course. Results: Thirty health care professionals participated in a 6-wk course, designed to improve professionalism in plastic surgery. Level 1 data: Although only 56.5% of respondents felt that the course was a "good use of my time," 73.9% agreed that the course "will help me become a better professional" and 82.6% "would recommend the course to others." Level 2 data: Post-test scores increased from 48% to 70% (P < 0.05), and the ability to recall all six competencies increased from 22% to 73% (P < 0.01). Level 3 data: The number of sentinel events in our division decreased from 13 to three. After the course, one resident was placed on probation and resigned, and two other employees left the division after being counseled on issues of professionalism. Interestingly, these participants did very well on the post-test but were not considered to be "team players." Level 4 data: Patient complaints decreased from 14 to eight, and patient satisfaction increased from 85.5% to 90.5%. Conclusions: A focused curriculum in professionalism may improve the knowledge of participants and overall behavior of the group, but may not affect individual attitudes. Nevertheless, efforts toward assessing, teaching, and influencing professionalism in plastic surgery are very valuable and should be pursued by educators to help satisfy Graduate Medical Education/Maintenance of Certification requirements and to improve the performance of the organization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-14
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Plastic surgery
  • Professionalism
  • Surgical education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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