Professionalism and Your Practice

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Physician colleagues gather around a table.

CPSO consulting on document that sets out core values, duties of medicine

It has been nearly 17 years since the Practice Guide, CPSO’s key resource on medical professionalism, was published. The practice of medicine has changed considerably since then, and we invite you to participate in our consultation of a draft document that sets out new core values and duties intended to reflect the current practice of medicine and the professionals within it.

“Though some of the values and principles set out in our 2007 document may still be relevant today, we saw an opportunity to reimagine its structure and update the guidance it contains,” says Dr. Karen Saperson, a geriatric psychiatrist and Chair of the Policy Working Group.

The draft begins by defining medical professionalism as “the words and actions of physicians that foster trust and respect with patients, colleagues, and the public.”

Medical guidance doesn’t often define “medical professionalism,” says Dr. Saperson. “But given that CPSO policies frequently reference the term ‘professionalism’ and expectations related to this concept, we thought a more precise definition of the term was warranted,” she says.

In addition to being 60 percent shorter than its predecessor, the draft document also has a new name − Principles of Medical Professionalism.


  • Capture the values and duties of the profession today and clarify the purpose of the resource for the profession.
  • Address and adopt professionalism responsibilities not explicitly captured in policy or related to gaps in guidance (e.g., equity, diversity, and inclusion, physician wellness).
  • Redesign and reformat the resource with an emphasis on improving readability.

Dr. Saperson says the draft document is built upon two core values of the profession: trust and respect. The draft also sets out four core duties through which physicians uphold the values of the profession:

  • Practising with integrity
  • Committing to responsibility
  • Practising with humility
  • Recognizing and honouring their humanity and the humanity of those they interact with

From each of these core duties flows more specific professional duties that physicians strive to fulfil in their work.

“In developing the list of duties, we have tried to capture the key responsibilities physicians have to their patients, themselves, and those they work with, while limiting specific expectations for which CPSO already has full policies,” said Dr. Saperson.

She urges physicians to participate in the consultation. “Medicine is a calling, and I believe this document will only benefit from the thoughtful observation and reflection of those who have chosen to become members of a profession such as ours.”