Student Professionalism


Being a professional is one of the key attributes of being a physician. In order to assist students in their development as future professionals, the program provides abundant instruction and feedback, both formal and informal, about professionalism. Information about the program’s formal professionalism instruction is summarized in this Calendar under the Ethics & Professionalism theme. This section focuses on the assessment of students’ professional behaviour as well as how critical professionalism incidents are defined and addressed.

The MD Program’s Guidelines for the Assessment of Student Professionalism are informed by the University of Toronto’s Standards of Professional Practice Behaviour for all Health Professional Students and the MD Program’s competency framework.

Assessment of student professionalism takes place through competency-based professionalism assessments, which is summarized below.

Professionalism incidents that require immediate action are addressed through critical incident reports, also summarized below.

Suspected breaches of academic integrity are addressed in accordance with the MD Program’s Academic Integrity Guidelines, which are informed by the University of Toronto’s Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters.


Professionalism Assessment

In selected teaching and learning settings where teachers are in a position to make meaningful observations about students’ professional behaviour, including small group settings and clinical learning environments, supervising teachers complete competency-based student professionalism assessment forms. This assessment exercise provides an opportunity for teachers to indicate both strengths and areas for improvement with respect to professionalism. It also allows the program to monitor whether individual students are exhibiting a pattern of unprofessional behaviour, possibly across multiple courses or multiple learning contexts.

The professionalism assessment form is organized according to six professionalism domains. Each domain includes criteria that reflect specific behaviours that characterize the respective domain, as follows:


  • Demonstrates sensitivity to patients’ and others’ needs, including taking time to comfort the sick patient
  • Listens with empathy to others
  • Prioritizes patients’ interests appropriately
  • Balances group learning with his/her own

Duty: Reliability and Responsibility

  • Fulfills obligations in a timely manner, including transfer of responsibility for patient care
  • Informs supervisor/colleagues when tasks are incomplete, mistakes or medical errors are made, or when faced with a conflict of interest
  • Provides appropriate reasons for lateness or absence in a timely fashion
  • Prepared for academic and clinical encounters
  • Actively participates in discussions
  • Fulfills call duties
  • Timely completion of MD Program and hospital registration requirements

Excellence: Self-improvement and Adaptability

  • Accepts and provides constructive feedback
  • Incorporates feedback to make changes in behaviour
  • Recognizes own limits and seeks appropriate help
  • Prioritizes rounds, seminars and other learning events appropriately

Respect for Others: Relationships with Students, Faculty and Staff

  • Maintains appropriate boundaries in work and educational settings
  • Establishes rapport with team members
  • Dresses in an appropriate manner (context specific)
  • Respects donated tissue; cadavers
  • Relates well to patients, colleagues, team members, laboratory staff, service, and administrative staff

Honour and Integrity: Upholding Student and Professional Codes of Conduct

  • Accurately represents qualifications
  • Uses appropriate language in discussions about cases and with or about patients and colleagues
  • Behaves honestly
  • Resolves conflicts in a manner that respects the dignity of those involved
  • Maintains appropriate boundaries with patients
  • Respects confidentiality
  • Uses social media appropriately
  • Respects diversity of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability, intelligence and socio-economic status

Recognize and Respond to Ethical Issues in Practice

  • Recognizes ethical issues and dilemmas in case vignettes and in practice
  • Examines personal values in relation to challenges in educational and clinical settings
  • Applies ethical reasoning skills to case situations
  • Acts appropriately with respect to complex ethical issues
  • Understands options to respond to unprofessional and unethical behaviours of others

Teachers are asked to rank students from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score, for each of the six professionalism domains. The assessment of each domain is based on the criteria applicable to the student’s learning activity. Teachers have the option of indicating if they were not in a position to assess one or more of the professionalism domains. Teachers are required to provide comments regarding any scores of 1 or 2, including those that are based on a critical incident (which is described in more detail below).


Professionalism Standards of Achievement

Satisfactory professionalism competency is a requirement to achieve credit in every course, and assessment of professionalism competency is included in every course. Satisfactory professionalism competency is also required to progress from one year level to the next and to graduate from the program, in accordance with the MD Program’s Standards for Grading and Promotion for Foundations and Clerkship.

Procedural details regarding the student professionalism check-in process and student in professionalism difficulty review process are provided in the MD Program’s Guidelines for the Assessment of Student Professionalism.


Sample Professionalism Forms and Resources