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Guidance For Medical Students: Achieving Good Medical Practice

Ethics toolkit for medical students.

As a medical student, you are studying to join a trusted profession that will bring you into contact with patients and members of the public. You must demonstrate a high standard of behavior at all times, which justifies the trust placed in you as a future member of the profession.

This guidance outlines the standards expected of you – both inside and outside medical school – and shows how the principles and values of good medical practice apply to you as a student.

Understanding how it applies now and in your career will help you be a good student and, in the future, a good doctor.

Maintaining a High Standard of Professional Behaviour

Your studies will bring you into contact with patients and members of the public, who can be physically and emotionally vulnerable.

Because of this, and the fact that you’ll be joining a trusted profession, we expect you to understand that there is a difference in the standard of behavior expected of students on courses that bring them into contact with patients and the public.

Specifically, your behavior at all times, both in the clinical environment and outside of your studies, must justify the trust that patients and the public place in you as a future member of the medical profession.

We and your medical school will support you in your journey from student to doctor, which includes teaching and assessment on professionalism.

Examples of the kinds of behavior that are a cause for concern and may lead to formal processes being used are outlined in the Professionalism – key areas of concern section of this guidance.

About Good Medical Practice

Good medical practice describes what is expected of all doctors registered with the GMC.

It is a doctor’s responsibility to be familiar with good medical practice and the explanatory guidance that supports it and to follow the guidance they contain.

Doctors must use their judgment in applying the principles to the various situations they will face as a doctor – whether or not they hold a license to practice, whatever field of medicine they work in, and whether or not they routinely see patients.

Doctors must be prepared to explain and justify their decisions and actions.

Develop and Maintain Your Professional Performance

  • As a registered doctor, you’ll be expected to keep your skills and knowledge up to date so you can give your patients the best standard of care.
  • Registered doctors must be familiar with and follow all laws and regulations relevant to their practice as well as any guidance on the GMC issues. This will protect patients by making sure they receive safe and lawful treatment and will help doctors to provide the best care possible.
  • As a medical student, you’ll learn the basic skills and knowledge you need to treat patients, but you are also developing your ability to learn and acquire future skills. As you move through medical school and into postgraduate education and training, you’ll continue to build on what you have learned. For you, this aspect of good medical practice is about participating fully in this learning process. Domain 1: Knowledge, skills, and performance General Medical Council and Medical Schools Council 09 Achieving good medical practice: guidance for medical students
  • You must:
    • Engage fully with your medical course by attending educational activities, including lectures, seminars, and placements, and by completing coursework
    • Listen to the advice of your lecturers and trainers
    • Comply fully with the regulations and other systems or structures provided by your medical school or university about your studies
    • Respond constructively to verbal and written feedback from patients, lecturers, clinicians, and members of the multidisciplinary team by critically reflecting on the feedback and making an action plan to improve where necessary
    • Reflect on what you have learned and look at ways to improve your own performance.

Communicate Effectively

Doctors must work in partnership with patients and good communication is vital if they are to do this successfully.

Working in partnership is about supporting patients to make decisions about their treatment and care, by listening to and respecting their views about their health.

Working in partnership is also about sharing information patients want or need, in a way that is tailored to their needs.

As a medical student, you’ll learn how to communicate effectively in a variety of clinical, simulated, and non-clinical settings and you must apply your learning in your interactions with patients.

When Communicating with Patients You Must:

  • Be honest when you don’t know something. As a student, you’re not expected to know the answers to all questions a patient may have, but you are expected to listen to them and respect their views. You should do your best to find out the answers to the patient’s questions yourself, or pass the query on to someone who will be able to help
  • Take into account the patient’s language and communication needs and other potential barriers to effective communication (for example, pain or anxiety) and ask for support to help you communicate effectively if necessary
  • Be polite and considerate to anyone close to the patient, such as relatives, carers, and friends at all times – not just during a consultation.

Show Respect for Patients

Doctors must not use their professional position to pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship with patients or those close to them.

When something goes wrong with a patient’s treatment, doctors must be open and honest with patients and carers.

As a medical student, your studies will bring you into contact with patients and members of the public, who can be physically and emotionally vulnerable.

Because of this, and the fact that you’ll be joining a trusted profession, you must not use your position to pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship with them.

This includes situations where a patient or someone close to them tries to initiate a relationship with you

Treating patients with respect includes not expressing your personal beliefs to patients in ways that exploit their vulnerability or would cause them distress.

As a medical student, you won’t be directly responsible for patient care because this responsibility will lie with your supervisor.

But if you think any aspect of care that you are involved in has gone wrong, you should tell your supervisor as soon as possible.

Your supervisor will support you, and if necessary will help you to put things right, which may include explaining to the patient what has happened and offering an apology

Treat Colleagues Fairly and Without Discrimination

Medical students must treat their colleagues with respect. In your case, colleagues include fellow medical and other healthcare students, the clinicians and other staff you work with on clinical placements, and the staff at your medical school.

Behavior Outside of Medical School

Medical students need to behave professionally outside of work and medical school. This means you should avoid doing things that will undermine the trust patients have in doctors and the public has in the medical profession.

For example, you shouldn’t make discriminatory comments about individuals or groups of people in public or on social media.

Your medical school will take action if you do something unprofessional, such as get a caution for drunken behavior, even if it happened outside of the medical school or over the summer holidays.

This means you should take responsibility for your actions and be aware that they may have a wider impact on how your medical school views your professionalism.

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