Shadowing a Doctor

December 12, 2014

Gap Medics students getting excited for their hospital placements! Medical students must adhere to the same behavioural standards as fully qualified professionals and convey that they are fit to practise a medical profession. Guidance published by the General Medical Council (GMC) states that ‘at all times your behaviour must justify the trust the public places in the medical profession’. Such standards of behaviour apply in a clinical and non-clinical setting and it is important that you know what is expected of you as a medical student. 

All medical schools have ‘fitness to practise’ procedures in place and the last thing you want is to find yourself involved in a ‘fitness to practise’ hearing!

So how can you avoid such a situation?

Behaviour in a clinical environment

Throughout your time at medical school you will come into regular contact with patients and you will be expected to adhere to the same principles as a doctor. While not an exhaustive list, here are a few pointers to keep you on the straight and narrow when in a clinical setting:

  • You must adhere to hospital dress codes, presenting yourself in a smart and professional manner.
  • All patient information must be held in confidence and not discussed with anyone that is not directly involved in the patients care.
  • You must work within your ability at all times. Be open and honest with both patients and staff – if you don’t know how to do something, do not pretend that you do as this jeopardises patient care.
  • With regard to informed consent from patients, you must clearly identify yourself as a medical student so that your patients are aware of your position and consent to you being involved in their care.
  • Should you have any concerns about a patients safety and the level of care they are receiving you should report this to the appropriate person.
  • You must not let your personal opinions affect your professional conduct and the treatment you provide. You should not discriminate against any patient under any circumstances.
  • Be aware of your own health and how this can impact your ability to work safely in a clinical environment. If you are ill you could put patients and colleagues at risk – you should seek advice from an appropriately qualified medical professional as to whether you are fit to be in a hospital environment.


Behaviour outside of a clinical environment 

You must also be conscious of your behaviour in your personal life, outside of a clinical environment. How you conduct yourself on a day-to-day basis and the lifestyle you choose to lead could call into question your fitness to practise.

If there is regular cause for concern with regard to your behaviour and your medical school believes this impedes your ability to complete your course or puts others and the reputation of the medical profession at risk, you could face fitness to practise procedures.

The following indiscretions will raise cause for concern and should be avoided by medical students at all costs.

  • Alcohol or drug misuse such as drink driving and dealing, possession or use of drugs.
  • A criminal conviction or a caution.
  • Incidences of violent or aggressive behaviour.
  • A non-committal attitude to your studies, such as poor attendance.
  • Cheating or plagiarising in your academic submissions.
  • Social media misuse.


For more in depth advice on the standards of behaviour expected from medical students, click here to view guidance from the GMC – ‘Medical students: professional values and fitness to practise’.