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Physician professionalism: definition from a generation perspective



The primary objective of this study was to determine whether consensuses on the definition of emergency physician professionalism exist within and among four different generations. Our secondary objective was to describe the most important characteristic related to emergency physician professionalism that each generation values.


We performed a cross-sectional survey study, using a card-sorting technique, at the emergency departments of two university-based medical centers in the United States. The study was conducted with 288 participants from February to November 2017. Participants included adult emergency department patients, emergency medicine supervising physicians, emergency medicine residents, emergency department nurses, and fourth- and second-year medical students who independently ranked 39 cards that represent qualities related to emergency physician professionalism. We used descriptive statistics, quantitative cultural consensuses and Spearman's correlation coefficients to analyze the data.


We found cultural consensuses on emergency physician professionalism in Millennials and Generation X overall, with respect for patients named the most important quality (eigenratio 5.94, negative competency 0%; eigenratio 3.87, negative competency 1.64%, respectively). There were consensuses on emergency physician professionalism in healthcare providers throughout all generations, but no consensuses were found across generations in the patient groups.


While younger generations and healthcare providers had consensuses on emergency physician professionalism, we found that patients had no consensuses on this matter. Medical professionalism curricula should be designed with an understanding of each generation's values concerning professionalism. Future studies using qualitative methods across specialties, to assess definitions of medical professionalism in each generation, should be pursued.

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