Achieving good medical practice: guidance for medical students

About this guidance

The General Medical Council (GMC) and the Medical Schools Council (MSC) have published this guidance for medical students to outline the standards expected of them - both inside and outside of medical school.

This guidance shows how the principles and values of the GMC's core guidance for doctors, Good medical practice, apply to you as a student. Understanding how the core guidance for doctors applies now and in your career will help you be a good student and, in the future, a good doctor.

What does this guidance cover?

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 behaviour expected of students on courses that bring them into contact with patients and the public.

Specifically, your behaviour 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.

As a medical graduate, you'll need to register with the GMC and get a licence to practise before you can begin work as a doctor if you wish to work in the UK. The GMC won't register medical graduates who are not fit to practise medicine.

In addition to this guidance, we've also produced guidance for medical schools and medical students on managing professionalism and fitness to practise concerns. It outlines the processes that medical schools should follow if they're worried about a student's professionalism or fitness to practise medicine.

Examples of the kinds of behaviour 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 judgement in applying the principles to the various situations they will face as a doctor - whether or not they hold a licence to practise, 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.

Using this guidance

Patients need good doctors - training to be a good doctor starts at medical school. During your studies, you'll learn the importance of professionalism and the principles and values set out in the GMC's core guidance for doctors, Good medical practice, and the explanatory guidance that supports it.

In this guidance, the GMC and the MSC (referred to as 'we' throughout the guidance) show how the principles and values in Good medical practice apply to you as a medical student, to help prepare you for your future role as a doctor. Much of this guidance is relevant specifically to your work on clinical placements. But professionalism is broader than this and includes all elements of your academic study, as well as the need to be trustworthy and honest.

In this guidance, we use the terms 'you must' and 'you should' in the following ways.

  • 'You must' is used to highlight important areas that are strongly linked to Good medical practice.
  • 'You should' is used when we give an explanation of how to meet requirements, and where there are exceptions to how the principle might apply.

Throughout this guidance, we also offer more detail and practical tips on how you can meet the requirements we set out. These will be shown like the box here.

Going above and beyond - taking on the challenge of professional excellence

This guidance explains the standards of professional behaviour expected of you during your studies. True professionalism is about striving for excellence - to achieve this you'll need to learn to:

  • develop healthy ways to cope with stress and challenges (resilience)
  • deal with doubt and uncertainty
  • apply ethical and moral reasoning to your work
  • work effectively in a team, including being able to give constructive and honest feedback
  • manage your own learning and development
  • be responsive to feedback
  • prioritise your time well and ensure a good work-life balance
  • promote patient safety and be able, where appropriate, to raise concerns
  • work collaboratively with patients and other professionals
  • deal with and mitigate against personal bias.

You may find many of these difficult or challenging to do well but, as with all elements of professionalism, your medical school will help you to develop these skills. Being professional means you'll need to make time to reflect on your experiences, to learn continually and to apply your learning in practice.

You will need to seek out feedback, remain up to date with professional and ethical guidance and be able to adapt to changing circumstances. Your teachers and trainers want you to develop and become an excellent doctor, so you should look to them for guidance and support.