RESEARCH ARTICLE: An evaluation of self perceived professionalism among health professions’ students


  • Syed Imran Ahmed International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur
  • Lai Kai Lin International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur
  • Jenny Chong Siew Ing International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur
  • Syed Shahzad Hasan University of Huddersfield
  • Mudassir Anwar University of Otago
  • Muneer Gohar Babar International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur


Health Professions Education, Professionalism, Understanding, Perceptions


The modern healthcare practice has made it imperative to involve patients at all levels of decision making; this shift has made professionalism as one of the core values to be inculcated in future healthcare professionals. Within the context, this study aimed to investigate ‘self-perceived professionalism’ among future health professionals. 

The study population comprised of students from four healthcare professional programmes, i.e. Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry, and Nursing; at one of the pioneer private medical institutions in the country. The authors carried out a cross sectional study using a self-administered validated Professionalism Assessment tool, to assess thirteen attributes of professionalism on a five-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (not important at all) to 5 (absolutely essential). Both descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyse the data, using the SPSS version 22 with a p-value ≤ 0.05 as the level of significance.

A total of 856 students from a sample size of 1,050accepted (81.5%) and successfully completed the questionnaire. Among these, 278 (32.4%) medical, 171 (20.0%) dental, 183 (21.4%) nursing, and 224 (26.2%) were pharmacy students. Based on the total professionalism scores, nursing students were ranked highest, showing highest level of perceived professionalism (mean: 221.9, SD: 21.9). Among various professionalism attributes, confidentiality, competence, communication, and shared decision making were ranked most important attributes to be taught in the students’ curriculum.

Based on the findings, there were differences and gaps highlighted between various health professions’ students with regards to some essential attributes. This suggests that there is a need to address issues related to developing  professionalism during students’ training, and exposure to real life experiential learning could facilitate this process.

Author Biographies

Syed Imran Ahmed, International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur

Senior Lecturer & Programme Director - Department of Pharmacy Practice, School of Pharmacy

Lai Kai Lin, International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur

School of Pharmacy

Jenny Chong Siew Ing, International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur

School of Pharmacy

Syed Shahzad Hasan, University of Huddersfield

School of Pharmacy 

Mudassir Anwar, University of Otago

School of Pharmacy

Muneer Gohar Babar, International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur

School of Dentistry


Abdulridha, M.K. (2012). Assessment of Pharmacy Students Attitude towards Patient Communication in Iraq. Iraqi Journal of Community Medicine, 4, 274–281

Al-Eraky, M.M. (2015). Twelve Tips for teaching medical professionalism at all levels of medical education. Medical Teacher, 37(11), 1018-25. doi:10.3109/0142159X.2015.1020288

Babar, M.G., Omar, H., Lim, L.P., Khan, S.A., Mitha, S., Ahmad, S.F.B. & Hasan, S.S. (2013). An assessment of dental students’ empathy levels in Malaysia. International Journal of Medical Education, 4, 223–229. doi:10.5116/ijme.5259.4513

Ballard, K.A. (2003). Patient Safety: A Shared Responsibility. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 8(3), 105

Boyle, M., Williams, B., Brown, T., Molloy, A., Mckenna, L., Molloy, L. & Lewis, B. (2010). Levels of empathy in undergraduate health science students. The Internet Journal of Medical Education, 1(1), 1–7

Braunack-mayer, A.J. & Mulligan, E.C. (2003). Sharing patient information between professionals : confidentiality and ethics, 178, (6), 277-279. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2003.tb05195.x

Bridges, D.R., Davidson, R.A., Odegard, P.S., Maki, I.V. & Tomkowiak, J. (2011). Interprofessional collaboration: Three best practice models of interprofessional education. Medical Education Online, 16(1), 1–10. doi:10.3402/meo.v16i0.6035

Byszewski, A., Hendelman, W., McGuinty, C. & Moineau, G. (2012). Wanted: role models--medical students’ perceptions of professionalism. BMC medical education, 12(1), 115. doi: 10.1186/1472-6920-12-115

Caprapro, R.M. (2007). Significance Level. Encyclopedia of measurement and statistics

Chen, D., Lew, R., Hershman, W. & Orlander, J. (2007). A cross-sectional measurement of medical student empathy. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 22(10), 1434–1438. doi: 10.1007/s11606-007-0298-x

Cruess, R.L., Cruess, S.R., Boudreau, J.D., Snell, L. & Steinert, Y. (2014). Reframing Medical Education to Support Professional Identity Formation. Academic Medicine, 89(11), 1446–1451. doi:10.1097/ACM.0000000000000427

Driesen, A., Simoens, S. & Laekeman, G. (2008). Continuing education programs for pharmacists: No one size fits all. Pharmacy Education, 8(1), 37-43

du Preez, R.R., Pickworth, G.E. & Van Rooyen, M. (2007).

Teaching professionalism: a South African perspective. Medical Teacher, 29(9–10), e284–e291. doi:10.1080/01421590701754128

Echeverri, M., Brookover, C. & Kennedy, K. (2014). Assessing Pharmacy Students’ Self-Perception of Cultural Competence. J Health Care Poor Underserved, 24(10), 64–92. doi: 10.1353/hpu.2013.0041

Eddy, D.M., Elfrink, V., Weis, D. & Schank, M.J. (1994). Importance of professional nursing values: a national study of baccalaureate programs. The Journal of Nursing Education, 33(6), 257–262

Eo, F., Bublitz, S. & Et, N. (2012). Sociodemographic and Academic Profile of Nursing Students of a Public University. Journal of Nursing UFPE Online, 6(10), 2455- 2462. doi:10.5205/reuol.3111-24934-1-LE.061020 1217

Francis, C.K. (2004). Professionalism and the medical student. Annals of Internal Medicine, 141(9), 735–736. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-141-9-200411020-00020

General Medical Council. (2016). Professional behaviour and fitness to practise (online). Available from: _practise_0816.pdf_66085925.pdf. Accessed 15th July, 2017

Ginsburg, K.R., Slap, G.B., Cnaan, A., Forke, C.M., Balsley, C.M. & Rouselle, D.M. (1995). Adolescents’ perceptions of factors affecting their decisions to seek health care. JAMA, 273(24), 1913–1918. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03520480033036

Glenn, J.E. (2012). The eroding principle of justice in teaching medical professionalism. HEC Forum, 24(4), 293–305. doi:10.1007/s10730-012-9199-4

Hägg-Martinell, A., Hult, H., Henriksson, P. & Kiessling, A. (2014). Students perceive healthcare as a valuable learning environment when accepted as a part of the workplace community. Education for Health, 27(1), 15-23. doi:10.4103/1357-


Janzen, D., Fitzpatrick, K., Jensen, K. & Suveges, L. (2013). Women in pharmacy: A preliminary study of the attitudes and beliefs of pharmacy students. Can Pharm J (Ott), 146(2), 109–116. doi:10.1177/1715163513481323

Jenkins, G., Merz, J.F., & Sankar, P. (2005). A qualitative study of women’s views on medical confidentiality. Journal of Medical Ethics, 31(9), 499–504

Kavas, M.V., Demirören, M., Koşan, A.M.A., Karahan, S.T., & Yalim, N.Y. (2015). Turkish students’ perceptions of professionalism at the beginning and at the end of medical education: a cross-sectional qualitative study. Medical Education Online, 20, 26614. doi:10.3402/meo.v20.26614

Kobra, P., Vahid, Z. & Fahimeh, H. (2012). Nursing students’ perspectives on professional values in the universities of medical sciences in Iran. Intl. Res. J. Appl. Basic. Sci., 3(6), 1183–1191

Lie, D. (2009). A Framework for Enhancing and Assessing Cultural Competency Training. Kaohsiung Journal of Medical Sciences, 25(9), 486-492. doi: 10.1016/S1607-551X(09)70555-8

Lin, Y., Wang, L.S., Yarbrough, S., Alfred, D. & Martin, P. (2010). Changes in Taiwanese nursing student values during the educational experience. Nursing Ethics, 17(5), 646–654. doi:10.1177/0969733010373011

Lui, M.H.L., Lam, L.W., Lee, I.F.K., Chien, W.T., Chau, J.P.C. & Ip, W.Y. (2008). Professional nursing values among baccalaureate nursing students in Hong Kong. Nurse Education Today, 28(1), 108–114

Martin, P., Yarbrough, S. & Alfred, D. (2003). Professional values held by baccalaureate and associate degree nursing students. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 35(3), 291–296.

Matlakala, M. & Mokoena, J. (2011). Student nurses’ views regarding disclosure of patients’ confidential information. South African Family Practice, 53(5), 481–487. doi:10.1080/20786204.2011.10874138

McLaughlin, K., Muldoon, O.T. & Moutray, M. (2010). Gender, gender roles and completion of nursing education: A longitudinal study. Nurse Education Today, 30(4), 303–307. doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2009.08.005

Moberly, T. (2018). Number of women entering medical school rises after decade of decline. BMJ, 360. doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2009.08.005

Morrow, G., Burford, B., Rothwell, C., Carter, M., McLachlan, J. & Illing, J. (2011). Professionalism in Healthcare Professionals. Health and Care Professions Council (online). Available at: https://www.hcpc- Accessed 15th July, 2017

Mueller, P.S. (2009). Incorporating professionalism into medical education: The Mayo Clinic Experience. Keio Journal of Medicine, 58(3), 133-143

Mueller, P.S. (2015). Teaching and Assessing Professionalism in Medical Learners and Practicing Physicians. Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal, 6(2), e0011. doi:10.5041/RMMJ.10195

Nath, C., Schmidt, R. & Gunel, E. (2006). Perceptions of professionalism vary most with educational rank and age. Journal of Dental Education, 70(8), 825–834

Noble, C., Coombes, I., Shaw, P. N., Nissen, L. M., & Clavarino, A. (2014a). Becoming a pharmacist: the role of curriculum in professional identity formation. Pharmacy Practice (Granada), 12(1), 380

Noble, C., O’Brien, M., Coombes, I., Shaw, P.N., Nissen, L. & Clavarino, A. (2014b). Becoming a pharmacist: Students’ perceptions of their curricular experience and professional identity formation. Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning, 6(3), 327–339

Patel, V.L., Schwartz, J. & Bussel, J.B. (2008). The effect of anti-CD40 ligand in immune thrombocytopenic purpura. British Journal of Haematology, 141(4), 545-548. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2141.2008.07039

Paterson, B. & Crawford, M. (1994). Caring in nursing education: an analysis. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 19(1), 164-173. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.1994.tb01064.x

Poirier, T.I. & Gupchup, G.V. (2010). Assessment of pharmacy student professionalism across a curriculum. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 74(4)

Ratanawongsa, N., Bolen, S., Howell, E.E., Kern, D.E., Sisson, S.D. & Larriviere, D. (2006). Residents’ perceptions of professionalism in training and practice: Barriers, promoters, and duty hour requirements. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 21(7), 758–763. doi:10.1111/j.1525-1497.2006.00496.x

Sawdon, M.A., Whitehouse, K., Finn, G.M., McLachlan, J.C. & Murray, D. (2017). Relating professionalism and conscientiousness to develop an objective, scalar, proxy measure of professionalism in anaesthetic trainees. BMC Medical Education, 17(1), 49. doi:10.1186/s12909-017- 0891-6

Shafakhah, M., Zarshenas, L., Sharif, F. & Sabet Sarvestani, R. (2015). Evaluation of nursing students’ communication abilities in clinical courses in hospitals. Global Journal of Health Science, 7(4), 323–8. doi:10.5539/gjhs.v7n4p323

Sherman, J.J. & Cramer, A. (2005). Measurement of changes in empathy during dental school. Journal of Dental Education, 69(3), 338–345

Swart, J. (1993). The importance of teamwork in health care. Nurs RSA, 8(2), 25

Tsoi, S.T.A., de Boer, A. & Koster, A.S. (2014). Gender Differences in Motivation and Learning Preferences of Pharmacists in Lifelong Learning. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 2(10), 608–615. doi:10.17265/2328 -2150/2014.10.005

Wan Chik, W.Z., Salamonson, Y., Everett, B., Ramjan, L.M., Attwood, N., Weaver, R., Saad, Z. & Davidson, P.M. (2012). Gender difference in academic performance of nursing students in a Malaysian university college. International Nursing Review, 59(3), 387–393. doi:10.1111/j.1466-7657.2012.00989.x

Wetterich, N.C. & da Costa Melo, M.R.A. (2007). Sociodemographic profile of undergraduate nursing students. Revista latino-americana de enfermagem, 15(3), 404–410. doi:10.1590/S0104-11692007000300007

Williams, B., Sadasivan, S., Kadirvelu, A. & Olaussen, A. (2014). Empathy levels among first year Malaysian medical students: an observational study. Advances in Medical Education and Practice, 5, 149–56. doi:10.2147/AMEP.S58094

Wilson, S.E., Prescott, J. & Becket, G. (2012). Empathy levels in first- and third-year students in health and non-health disciplines. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 76(2), 1-4. doi:10.5688/ajpe76224

WHO [World Health Organisation]. (2009). Global standards for the initial education of professional nurses and midwives. Geneva (SWZ), WHO

Zijlstra-Shaw, S., Roberts, T.E. & Robinson, P.G. (2013). Perceptions of professionalism in dentistry - a qualitative study. British Dental Journal, 215(9), E18. doi:10.1038/sj.bdj.2013.1048




How to Cite

Ahmed, S. I., Lin, L. K., Siew Ing, J. C., Hasan, S. S., Anwar, M., & Babar, M. G. (2019). RESEARCH ARTICLE: An evaluation of self perceived professionalism among health professions’ students. Pharmacy Education, 19(1), p 396–405. Retrieved from



Research Article