Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Professional Connectedness and the Quality of Professional Services

by Sam Knapp, EdD, ABPP
Director of Professional Affairs

Self-reported happiness is correlated with being a member of a valued social group, whether it is family, a circle of friends, a faith community (church, synagogue, or mosque), or another social environment. Social support is also related to better health, longevity, and more productivity and effectiveness at work. 

Also, evidence suggests that socially connected health care practitioners tend to do better than “outliers.” For example, Knapp and VandeCreek (2009) found that psychologists who belonged to their state psychological association had significantly fewer disciplinary actions than non-members. Similarly, Kilmo, Daum, Brinker, McGruire, and Elliot (2000) found that orthopedic surgeons who belonged to their professional association had lower rates of malpractice complaints than non-members. Of course, self-selection may account for some of this finding in that the more conscientious health care professionals may select themselves into the professional association. Nonetheless, membership itself may have some benefits in terms of providing resources. 

Perhaps the membership or the continued social contact that comes from membership helps health care professionals learn new information and compare their knowledge base with others. For example, Knapp and Keller (2004) found that psychologists rated contacts with their colleagues as their most important source of learning new information related to the profession. Also, Pope, Tabachnick, and Keith-Spiegel (1987) found that discussions with colleagues were the most important source of knowledge about the profession that psychologists had.

In addition to the information benefits, social support helps moderate the emotional stressors caused by work, and institutions that value employees and solicit their active involvement tend to give better service to their patients. So it would seem that psychologists who strive toward excellence in their work will structure their lives to ensure continued contact with other psychologists.

In addition to whatever personal benefits they derive from social contacts, connected  psychologists also contribute to the advancement of the profession and public welfare to the extent that their interactions help upgrade the knowledge base or otherwise help support the activities of other psychologists.  When asked about how they maintain their social connectedness and sense of community, several psychologists noted that they

• participated on a professional listserv;
• as supervisors ensured that there was sufficient time for supervisees to meet and learn from each other;
• attended continuing education programs;
• maintained memberships in professional associations (and attended meetings);
• formed a journal club; and
• established and maintained professional contacts through electronic media, such as Facebook, Plaxo, or LinkedIn.

However, creating a supportive environment cannot be reduced to a list of several options alone. Instead, it requires openness to meet and discuss with others. It is possible to be physically present at a continuing education workshop, but to be so involved in texting or responding to phone calls during breaks that the event involves little more contact than doing a home study.

What do you do to maintain your professional extroversion?

Feel free to contact Dr. Eric Affsprung, chair of PPA’s Colleague Assistance Committee (Eaffspru@bloomu.edu) with your ideas.

Feel free to post your ideas here.


Kilmo, G., Daum, W., Brinker, M., McGruire, E., & Elliott, M. (2000). Orthopaedic medical malpractice: An attorney’s perspective. American Journal of Orthopaedics, 29, 93-97.

Knapp, S., & VandeCreek, L. (2009, fall). Disciplinary actions by a state board of psychology: Does gender and association membership matter? Focus on 31: Division 31 Newsletter, p. 7.

Knapp, S., & Keller, P. (2004, March). What enhances the professional skills of psychologists? Pennsylvania Psychologist, 64(3), 11.

Pope, K., Tabachnick, B., & Keith-Spiegel, P. (1987). Ethics of practice: The beliefs of psychologists as therapists. American Psychologist, 42, 993-1006.