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Managers/leaders are important agents of change in creating a culture that supports and develops professionalism. Managers and leaders must lead by example, demonstrating a professional approach through their own values, attitude and behaviours. 

Healthcare professionals cited examples of leaders who create an inclusive and fair working environment that values and supports team members. Other leadership qualities recognised by healthcare professionals include providing opportunities for professional development.

Effective leaders build trusted relationships, not only with their team members but with other health professionals and stakeholders, to find workable solutions that lead to improved patient outcomes.

Watch our video on leadership and see why great leaders help improve the health and social care profession and the patients it serves.

Case studies

Healthcare professionals have shared their experiences of demonstrating professionalism through leadership.

As a new team member in a small radiotherapy department, I quickly settled into the position after working closely with a team leader who demonstrated professional values and attitude.

She facilitated an environment where I was supported by the wider team, for instance, by asking a colleague to supervise me while performing a particular task so that I could gain my clinical competencies in a timely manner.

Throughout the first month, she monitored my work closely without feeling the need to micromanage. When giving feedback, she was comfortable discussing weaknesses and areas to improve upon but also recognised and praised areas of strength. Her subtle encouragement developed my confidence to work autonomously and be proactive.

She would often sacrifice her time in the clinical setting to put my needs before hers, to ensure that I always had the opportunity as it arose. If I were ever unfamiliar or felt a situation was beyond my scope of practice, she would be ready to step in and assist. Afterwards, we would reflect and discuss what went well or could be done differently.

As a team leader, her commitment to ensuring that I fitted in quickly, was able to build rapport with the team and refine my clinical skills to suit the department’s requirements demonstrates dependability and kindness.  She recognised each individual within the team and their needs to ensure they had the opportunity to grow as a professional.

I was asked to review the living situation of a severely autistic person I felt was not housed adequately. I prepared a report to improve this person’s housing, but a panel subsequently refused my recommendations.

There was pressure from family members and social workers for work to be carried out on the existing property, but I was concerned about the property's location. I realised I should have highlighted these concerns in my report, and I think that, in truth, I was anxious this might have gone much further and even become legal.

My manager talked at length with me and supported me to amend the report to include this 'bottom line'. She praised the quality of the report and shielded me from any consequences. She has been calm, uncritical and always complimentary about my work despite our service's pressures.

She always responded to any calls for help and has supported me through the recent COVID-19 crisis when I had to take time off due to depression. When I returned to work, she carefully monitored the cases I was given and helped me cope with the workload. 

She is always the model of calm. I feel she is the epitome of professionalism as she is discreet about other staff members and their difficulties and will also defend colleagues from different professions, if necessary.

My manager is someone I look up to, and I strive to demonstrate her calm, encouraging, but assertive behaviour when necessary.

A particular team leader in my department has a very professional manner in my opinion.

She maintains a good relationship with all the staff, is fair about the workload on the unit, and always tries to ensure we have different tasks to complete throughout the day. She remains 'one of the team' regardless of how many management meetings she attends and communicates with all staff she works with daily.

She is a very inclusive person and has a warm personality, which is helpful when interacting with both staff and patients. It is easy to approach her with queries about new techniques and protocols, and she ensures her competencies are up to date so that she can help others who are just starting out. And if she doesn't know the answer, she is quick to find out rather than fob others off with an incomplete or incorrect response.

A specific example of her professionalism is how she addresses the different behaviours within her team. If there has been an incident or manner of speaking to patients that she has witnessed and feels could have been handled differently, she will make a broad statement to the team rather than pick out a specific person. She would start with 'do you know what I was thinking, could we.....' and then reminds us of a particular guideline or protocol. She has a way of phrasing it that includes herself as being someone who could also improve in that area. It just has a way of making the entire team think about how they handle situations and feel valued as a team member as they are now making improvements together.

She is firm, friendly and team-focused in her leadership style. Her leadership promotes inclusion and heightens a sense of loyalty in the team. Her example shows me how to be a good leader and that it can be accomplished without alienating other members of the team. Her style of professionalism would get the same if not better results than those stuck in a rule-orientated style.

My role is to support the strategic lead with running the service we work for, ensuring staff have all they need to complete their tasks and that our clients get the required support. My role involves speaking with various stakeholders and senior leaders within the Trust. The team is quite large, so this can be challenging at times.  

Lockdown was a challenging time as we had to move the service online to ensure we could continue to support our clients. I highlighted how we could do this, and my manager was immediately supportive. They ensured the leadership team, who, for bureaucratic reasons, was not initially in full favour of our suggested methods, came on board.

He achieved this by using his clinical and leadership experience to highlight why we needed to do things in a slightly unorthodox way. Through his professional approach, he was able to get the support of various departments within the Trust. This stands out to me as this is not the norm in the Trust where I work. My experience is that there are ways that things have been done for various reasons, but my manager's proven track record in the field of psychology meant that he supported me to get the necessary changes approved, even though this did not come naturally to the teams and individuals involved. 

I believe my manager supported me because I have proven that I work to a high standard and make reasoned, appropriate suggestions about the needs of our team. My suggestions are therefore taken seriously.  I have learned that I cannot underestimate the importance of diplomacy and sometimes taking a roundabout approach to get things done. Professionalism is about getting things done in a way that also enhances, maintains and fosters good working relationships in the long term. Before this experience, I would have got very frustrated. and this may well have come out in a way that got the job done, but would not have fostered relationships.

Key learnings

Some of the key leadership learnings identified from the personal experiences of healthcare professionals include:

  • Lead by example and model the behaviour and values you expect from your team
  • Be empathetic
  • Demonstrate a commitment to ongoing learning and professional development by ensuring your competencies and knowledge are up to date, and by supporting the professional growth of team members.
  • Create a sense of teamwork and collaboration by clearly communicating expectations and common goals
  • Support an inclusive workplace where all team members feel valued, listened to and recognised for their work.

Part five: Patient-centred care


A collaborative approach can lead to better coordination of patient care and more effective communication between health professionals.

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Good communication underpins all aspects of professionalism and is critical to building professional relationships with colleagues, patients and other healthcare professionals.

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To deliver a high standard of patient care all healthcare professionals must demonstrate a high level of competence in their specific roles.

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Patient-centred care

Patient-centred care puts the patient at the very centre of their treatment.

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Reflection is critical to maintaining professional practice and enhancing patient care.

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