Professionalism Objectives on Clinical Placement

When developing objectives for upcoming student placements, we recommend including at least one learning objective related to professionalism. Students often struggle with professionalism’s “non-technical skills” such as communication, boundaries, and the therapeutic relationship. Laying out expectations in these areas early on teaches students to effectively address issues that may arise.

One way to effectively address this gap is by determining “professionalism learning objectives” at the start of the placement-before a problem arises. Professionalism learning objectives can be written alongside the (perhaps more obvious) clinical skill objectives that are set at the start of the placement. There is a myriad of different options for professionalism objectives depending on the clinical context and practice environment. To start, think about professionalism skills which are particularly important in your setting.

  • Is developing rapport with families as well as with patients particularly important in your practice? Is gaining consent a particular challenge in your setting?
  • Are you working in an environment where setting boundaries may be especially challenging?
  • Are you working in a team environment where interprofessional collaboration is central to your role?

By including at least one learning objective related to professionalism you are not only highlighting that, just as are the other aspects of practice, professionalism is an essential clinical skill but also role models that this is something that needs to be thought about and practiced. If there is a professionalism transgression, having a professionalism objective it gives you something concrete to reflect on with the student and create an opportunity for discussion and learning.

As always, if you have any questions about setting learning objectives (of any sort) or of any other aspects of clinical education involving students, please don’t hesitate to contact Sue Murphy at or Susan Paul at