Open Access Open Badges Research article

Advanced medical students’ experiences and views on professionalism at Kuwait University

Dalia Al-Abdulrazzaq1*, Amani Al-Fadhli2 and Andleeb Arshad3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Kuwait, Kuwait City, Kuwait

2 Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Kuwait, Kuwait City, Kuwait

3 King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, Medical Education Unit, Al-Hars Al-Watani, Riyadh 14611, Saudi Arabia

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BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:150  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-150

Published: 23 July 2014



Professionalism is a core competency in the medical profession worldwide. Numerous studies investigate how this competency is taught and learned. However, there are few reports on the students’ views and experiences with professionalism especially in the Arab world. Our aim was to explore the experiences and views of Kuwait final-year medical students on professionalism.


This was a questionnaire study of final-year medical students at Kuwait University (n = 95). Open- and close-ended questions were used to determine the students’ experiences and views on: definition, teaching, learning, and assessment of professionalism.


Eighty-five of the students completed the questionnaire (89.5%). A total of 252 attributes defining professionalism were listed by our respondents. The majority (98.0%) of these attributes were categorized under the CanMEDS theme describing professionalism as commitment to patients, profession, and society through ethical practice. The most helpful methods in learning about professionalism for the students were contact with positive role models, patients and families, and with their own families, relatives and peers. The students’ rating of the quality and quantity of teaching professionalism in the institution was quite variable. Despite this, 68.2% of the students felt very or somewhat comfortable explaining the meaning of medical professionalism to junior medical students. Almost half of the students felt that their education had always or sometimes helped them deal with professionally-challenging situations. Majority (77.6%) of the students thought that their academic assessments should include assessment of professionalism and should be used as a selection criterion in their future academic careers (62.3%). Most of the students discussed and sought advice regarding professionally-challenging situations from their fellow medical students and colleagues. Seventy-five (88.2%) students did not know which organizational body in the institution deals with matters pertaining to medical professionalism.


This study highlights the influence of the curriculum, the hidden curriculum, and culture on medical students’ perception of professionalism. Medical educators should take in account such influences when teaching and assessing professionalism. Future research should aim at creating a framework of competencies that addresses professionalism in a context suitable for the Arabian culture.

Professionalism; Undergraduate; Curriculum