Medical ethics and professionalism are fundamental competencies for all physicians, and resident physicians have to develop these competencies during their training. Although Korea has a reputation for having the highest quality medical practice in East Asia, improvements in the technological aspects of care have outpaced the developments in institutional systems and education needed to fulfill social responsibility. Enhancing professionalism education during postgraduate training requires thorough exposition of this situation. Approach: Twenty residents from 17 clinical departments at 1 Korean tertiary university-affiliated hospital were recruited, and in-depth interviews were conducted in person by an interviewer who was a fellow resident with participants. Interviewees recalled and described personal experiences or observations of misbehaviors that had occurred during their residency training. Researchers recorded and transcribed all interviews, and 4 researchers conducted a thematic analysis. Findings: Authors extracted 48 descriptors representing 8 categories of unethical and unprofessional behaviors from the transcripts: (a) substandard practice, (b) violation of work ethics, (c) misconduct related to conflict of interest, (d) dishonesty with patients, (e) violation of patient confidentiality, (f) lack of respect for patients, (g) lack of respect for colleagues, and (h) misconduct in research. Each of the interviewees mentioned between 3 and 18 descriptors. “Not fulfilling basic duties for patient care” was the most frequently mentioned misconduct, followed by “fabricating patient medical status or test results to meet preoperative criteria for anesthesia” and “verbal or physical abuse of junior doctors.” Insights: Residents reported a diverse variety of unethical and unprofessional behaviors throughout their training and described the ethical distress they suffered in the real clinical situations. The results of this study support the notion that reinforcing ethics and professionalism education during postgraduate medical training in a practical and authentic way will help trainees manage the ethical conflicts or dilemmas they will inevitably encounter.
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