Perceptions of professional attributes in medicine: a qualitative study in Hong Kong

Danny C Leung, Enoch K Hsu, Edwin C Hui
Medical Ethics Unit, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong

OBJECTIVE. Medical professionalism has been widely discussed in western scholarly literature. However, since Hong Kong has a mixed Chinese-western culture, it remains uncertain whether Hong Kong health care professionals, medical students, and patients see medical professionalism in exactly the same way as westerners. The objective of the present study was to explore perceptions of medical professionalism in Hong Kong.

DESIGN. Individual semi-structured interviews.

SETTING. Medical faculty preceptors, residents, interns, nurses, and students from the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong. Subjects were recruited at an out-patient clinic of Queen Mary Hospital.

PARTICIPANTS. We interviewed 39 subjects, including six medical faculty preceptors, six hospital residents, four medical interns, eight nurses, eight out-patients, and seven medical students. The interviews were transcribed and coded. Grounded theory was employed for framing and analysing the interviews.

RESULTS. A total of 30 primary themes were identified and grouped under three secondary themes, ie 'Expectations of a professional doctor', 'Work values', and 'Patient care'. In general, the primary themes were consistent with recognised professional attributes in western bioethics, such as knowledge and skills, holistic care, and communication skills. A closer analysis suggested that traditional Chinese thought also played an important role in shaping the medical professionalism of Hong Kong. Challenges to be faced by Hong Kong doctors due to recent social changes were also identified.

CONCLUSIONS. Medical professionalism in Hong Kong is shaped by both western medical ethics and traditional Chinese thought. The values treasured by Hong Kong health care professionals as well as technological advance, and the city's proximity to Mainland China makes Hong Kong health care unique. It is important to maintain the present work attitudes and at the same time adapt to new social changes.

Hong Kong Med J 2012;18:318-24

Key words: Clinical competence; Delivery of health care; Physician-patient relations; Professional practice

 
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