Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Being Yourself as a Professional


Be kind, be humble - and be yourself!

As a physician assistant educator, I spend a lot of time talking about professionalism. What does it mean? How does it look, act, or react? Professional communication. Minding your p’s and q’s. Holding your tongue. Avoiding gossip in the workplace. Disruptive behaviors beware.


But somewhere along the way, the message can get distorted. Be this. Dress like that. Act this way and you will fit in …


Lately I’ve been wondering if I’ve been asking people to put on a mask at work, to be or do something where they could not feel like themselves. My personal inquiry came to a peak when an end of year evaluation from a learner said, “You can be professional and still be yourself.” Then another learner came to me and said, “I’m worried that I talk too much, that I’m too loud, and that I won’t be accepted in my clinical year by the teams I’m supposed to work with.”


I almost cried. She was from a cultural background different than my own. She had felt, in her previous clinical experiences that were required for matriculation in our program, that she had to stifle herself at work or be treated differently. This beautiful, caring soul that we need so much more of in medicine.


A few months later, as I was helping a pre-professional advising group prepare a seminar on interview tips, the language on the slide I was reviewing from the advisor said, “consider straightening your hair and pulling your hair back,” “consider shaving your beard,” and “wear only neutral colors.”


The message of professionalism needs to be:  


1.) Be yourself.


2.) Act with integrity.


3.) Be kind.


4.) Be humble.


5.) Be mindful of the language you use around others and recall others are watching you.


6.) Advocate for yourself and those without a voice.


7.) Wear natural hair.


8.) Laugh at appropriate jokes.


9.) Use color in your wardrobe if you love color.


10.) Let your accent out.  


11.) Wear a silly tie if you enjoy it.


12.) Let yourself shine.