What do dietetics students think professionalism entails?

Debbi Marais, Maritha Marais, Janicke Visser, Catherine Boome, David Taylor


Background. Members of a profession are committed to codes of ethics and professionalism. The aim was to determine which professionalism attributes dietetics students deem important and relevant to their profession.

Methods. A total of 109 dietetics students from two universities in the Western Cape, South Africa, completed a demographic questionnaire and were required to sort a pack of cards containing 90 attributes of professionalism into 11 piles, ranging from ‘least agree’ to ‘most agree’. An element of forced choice was introduced by restricting the number of cards in each of the 11 piles (Q-sort). PQMETHOD 2.11 was used for data analysis, ranking items by their mode score and giving an indication of which items were most consistently favoured.

Results. Professionalism attributes considered most important included Protect confidential information, Trust, Respect patients’ right of shared decision making, Honesty, Good clinical judgment, Communication skills and Carry out professional responsibilities. Interpersonal professionalism attributes were considered more important than intrapersonal or public professionalism.

Conclusion. This study suggests that professionalism attributes are not attained continuously for dietetic students. The findings should form an integral part of dietetic and other health sciences curriculum planning to ensure that the assessment of these attributes is relevant and consistent with development over the years.

Authors' affiliations

Debbi Marais, University of Aberdeen, Scotland

Maritha Marais, Stellenbosch University

Janicke Visser, Stellenbosch University

Catherine Boome, Stellenbosch University

David Taylor, The University of Liverpool

Full Text



Dietetics; Ethics; Health sciences curriculum; Health Professions; Professionalism; South Africa

Cite this article

African Journal of Health Professions Education 2012;4(1):28-33.

Article History

Date submitted: 2012-03-08
Date published: 2012-07-11

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