The imperative of teaching professionalism to biomedical technologists

V Rambiritch, A Smith-Tolken


Background. Biomedical technologists are key role players in the diagnosis of disease and serve as consultants for the appropriate use of medical laboratory services, making them essential partners in interprofessional healthcare. The blood transfusion biomedical technology national internship curriculum strongly emphasises knowledge and laboratory skills development. Very little has been published on research regarding biomedical technology interns’ knowledge, understanding and development of professionalism, which prompted this study.

Objectives. To determine intern blood transfusion biomedical technologists’ understanding of professionalism and to explore potential strategies for effective teaching of professionalism for improved practice.

Methods. A mixed-methods research design was used, consisting of a curriculum analysis, followed by a questionnaire in the quantitative phase of the study and focus group interviews in the qualitative phase. A statistical analysis of qualitative data indicated a trend in the perceptions of interns, while the qualitative data were thematically coded and analysed.

Results. Professionalism had different meanings for different individuals, but a strong focus on ethical conduct evolved. Professionalism in education was not only a deficiency in the internship curriculum, but was also absent in the various university undergraduate biomedical technology curricula. The need for structured teaching of professionalism was strongly supported by the interns and their educators. A host of active and interactive approaches to the teaching of professionalism was suggested to achieve the goal of elevating the role of biomedical technologists in the interprofessional healthcare approach.

Conclusions. Professionalism needs to be purposely taught to ensure a consistent understanding and to inform practice. Reviewing and upscaling of the internship and the university undergraduate biomedical technology curricula are needed to include explicit teaching of professionalism.

Authors' affiliations

V Rambiritch, Learning and Development, South African National Blood Service, Johannesburg, South Africa

A Smith-Tolken, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa

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Biotechnology; Professionalism; Interprofessional healthcare; Mixed methods

Cite this article

African Journal of Health Professions Education 2019;11(4):139-144. DOI:10.7196/AJHPE.2019.v11i4.1101

Article History

Date submitted: 2019-12-12
Date published: 2019-12-12

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