What Is Surgical Professionalism?

  • Steven M. SteinbergEmail author
  • Andrew L. Warshaw


Professionalism has been, inarguably, the most important characteristic valued by both patients and surgeons. If a surgeon is not perceived as behaving professionally, a patient’s trust in the surgeon is much more likely to be called into question. This chapter deals with the topic of professionalism in the practice of surgery, challenges to surgeons’ professionalism, and our suggestions on meeting those challenges. Challenges to our professionalism and professional standing include a philosophical and attitudinal shift from paternalism to patient autonomy, the medical malpractice crisis, the rise of entrepreneurship in medicine with its potential for conflict of interest, the commercialization and lucrative aspects of health care, the commoditization of surgical care, the introduction of new technology, and more overt competition among health providers and systems. Being a professional requires continuous self-improvement; self-regulation keyed to our individual current competence, contributing to the equitable regulation of our colleagues and our surgical practices; and always placing the welfare of the patient before our own.


Professionalism Doctor-patient relationship Payment model Conflict of interest Key competencies 


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Suggested Literature

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Trauma, Critical Care and BurnThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Massachusetts General Hospital and Partners HealthCareMassachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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