Principles of Professionalism

May 09, 2013
Tagged with: Principles of Professionalism




In December 2009, I began a journey with a new Fitness and Movement Specialist to advance my goal to walk without assistive devices.  At the time, I had no way of knowing how hard I would work, how far I would be pushed, or how much I would achieve. While I have a long history of working with professionals from multiple disciplines, through my work with James R. House, III, I would come to understand what a true working alliance is— a shared partnership between a client and a professional.

James is an experienced fitness professional who earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Palm Beach Atlantic University in Physical Education with concentrations in Exercise Science and Athletic Training. In December 2010, the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) invited James and I to introduce ourselves and the journey we were undertaking through the “Going for A Walk” article series.  At the time, James and I highlighted the importance of establishing a dynamic collaboration and partnership.  Now James and I would like to share the evolution of that journey through a series of articles that explore the themes of standards and ethics, the client/professional dynamic, expectations, and the progression toward a goal.


In the first part of the series, James House and I will discuss the principles of professionalism in the context of our work together.  It is a privilege to write again with James who said, “Our work will not be done, the process will not done, until you [Kerry] walk out the Fitness Center door without walking devices.”


Principles of Professionalism


Within the Health, Fitness, and Wellness fields, a professional is defined as “an expert and as a service provider for a fee.”[i]  Regardless of the field or discipline, a professional should abide by a series of principles and standards in service to their client/customer.  Principles include: working for the good of the client (acting in their best interest), demonstrating a willingness to work toward a goal which is defined by the client, and expecting a level of performance from the client toward the specified goal.[ii]


In my work with James, he has demonstrated these principles of professionalism, and he works for the good of his clients, truly engaging in their process of achieving the defined goal.


—Kerry A. Wiley


Building a Foundation – The Goals of the Customer

By: James R. House, III


Kerry will say that she wants to walk without assistive devices.  She uses ski poles as a replacement for crutches.  She has never walked without the aid of something in her hands.  As Kerry Wiley’s primary Movement Specialist, I serve many roles. My goals are defined by Kerry’s goals.


I instruct Kerry through many forms of physical activity.  I support and motivate Kerry to get through the tougher parts of her walking program and I help keep her accountable to her program.  Kerry came to me with very specific goals in mind.  She asked me to guide her to achieve those goals – she wanted to improve her mobility, general management of her Spastic Cerebral Palsy, and ultimately she wants to walk without assistive devices full-time.


Kerry has other objectives that she has taken on in pursuit of the bigger goal.  She’s never put a name to them, but she has engaged me to help her adhere to a healthy lifestyle, with a structure that may be stricter than a professional athlete.  Most of us have learned that to be truly successful and master a skill, you have to immerse yourself in it and focus on mastering that skill while setting other desires and goals aside.


I can compare Kerry’s efforts to a professional athlete because she understands the need for discipline.  She can be very strict with herself.  Professional athletes will focus on getting really strong in one area or skill.  Kerry is determined and structured.  In the context of fitness, she’s had to learn to pay close attention to nutrition, hydration, and sleep.


She’s also had to agree to become my student.   I assign her exercises and other tasks to perform outside of our supervised session.  The tasks are her homework for the week.  Kerry knows that by following through on what I assign, I am providing the building blocks to develop the discrete skills and patterns of movement that she needs.  She knows that I’m building the foundation toward her future goal.


Professionalism means investing effort


As a Mobility Specialist and fitness professional, I serve as a role model to my client.  When a professional advances expectations, it shows the client that their efforts today are the building blocks for tomorrow — each task they perform and achieve will support reaching the bigger goal that we are working toward achieving together.


I am always working for the good of my client.  This requires diligence and a high level of attention toward addressing the needs of my client.   Kerry is my client – my customer.  She has agreed to do business with me.  As a result, I’m going to put forward my maximum effort to address her needs.


A client comes to me for my expertise to accomplish something very specific.  Part of my role is to show a client what is expected by setting short-term goals and, as expectations are achieved, increasing those goals and advancing expectations over time.  Part of this is teaching and supporting the client to develop a sense of pride in achieving those standards and in the work the client performs.  When I invest effort, my client sees my example and is more likely to take the steps to reach the defined goal.


Tailoring effort to meet the needs of the client


When I work with Kerry, I have to consider her developmental differences that are a result of Spastic Cerebral Palsy.  Kerry has sensitivities (proprioceptive/vestibular/tactile/auditory) as a result of her disability that many other clients I work with do not.  External factors that are less likely to impact a person without disabilities affect Kerry and our program.


These factors include tactile sensitivity, auditory sensitivity, and temperature.  Tactile sensitivity or hypersensitivity is increased sensitivity to touch.  The slightest touch or move can cause Kerry discomfort and she will often have exaggerated physical response to movement of her body such as intense clonus (involuntary muscular contraction) or a spastic reaction.


Kerry also exhibits sensitivity to sound.   She will react to the volume of the music being played in the Fitness Center or the loudness of peoples’ voices.  Simple actions like going to a quieter space can minimize the impact of these sensitivities.


The temperature in a room and the temperature outside affect how Kerry moves.  The warmer Kerry is the better she moves.  Her clothing choice and the environmental temperature of where we work is important.


Part of my role as Kerry’s Movement Specialist is to problem-solve and figure out what to do when we have an unfavorable physiological reaction from a defined sensitivity or an environmental stimulus. Fitness Professionals have to examine external and environmental factors and support their client to lessen the impact of the stimulus.


Tying it together


Regardless of our specialty in the Health, Fitness, and Wellness fields, we must act for the good of our clients, embrace our client’s goals, set a positive example, and create the foundations for them to achieve their goals.  As we work with our clients in the achievement of their goals, we must also accommodate for their individual needs.


— James R. House, III


[i] McNamee, M. J., & Parry, S. J. (Eds.). (1998). Ethics and Sport. London: E & FN Spon.

[ii] Koehn, D. (1994) The Ground of Professional Ethics, London: Routledge.

Author: Kerry