Working with doctors Working for patients

Apply knowledge and experience to practice

  1. 6. Registered doctors must recognise and work within the limits of their competence.
  2. 7. As a medical student, this applies to you in relation to the time you’ll spend with patients on a clinical placement. It also means you should only treat patients or give medical advice when you are under the supervision of a registered healthcare practitioner. You must not carry out procedures on friends or your family. You must:
  • recognise the limits of your competence and ask for help when necessary
  • make sure you clearly explain your level of competence to anyone who supervises you on a placement, so you are not asked to do anything you are not trained to do
  • make sure patients, carers and colleagues are aware that you are a medical student and not a registered doctor
  • take action if you think you’re not being effectively supervised on a clinical placement (see paragraph 9)
  • engage in a timely fashion with routine evaluation systems provided by your medical school or university (for example, end of placement questionnaires or staff-student liaison committees).        
  1. 8. If you are not sure you are able to carry out a procedure competently, you should ask for help from a more experienced colleague, such as a nurse or qualified doctor. You should only attempt practical procedures if you have been trained to do so, and only under supervision that is appropriate to your level of competence.
  2. 9. If you think you are not being properly supervised on a placement, you should stop the work you are doing and raise your concerns with the placement provider and your medical school. This won’t impact on your studies and will show that you are a responsible student acting in a professional manner. We also expect you to take prompt action if you have any concerns about possible risks to patients, as set out in Respond to risks to safety and How to raise a patient safety concern.
  3. See below - Practical tip #2: Being professional on placements.
  4. 10. While you are at medical school, you’ll learn how to make good clinical decisions and how to be satisfied a patient has given consent. You’ll learn that the consent process is about shared decision making between a doctor and a patient, where the doctor uses their specialist knowledge and experience to help their patient consider their options and make an informed decision.
  5. You can find out more about consent in the GMC’s guidance for registered doctors, Consent: patients and doctors making decisions together.
  6. 11. Towards the end of your studies, you may be responsible, under supervision, for explaining to a patient what will happen to them – and, in some cases, getting their consent for a minor procedure, such as taking a blood sample or a blood pressure reading. In almost all other cases, you won’t be solely responsible for seeking consent. Whatever the circumstances, you should always check with the patient what they have already agreed to in terms of treatment and that they’re happy for a student to be involved in their care.
  7. See below - Practical tip #3: Consent – things to remember.

Practical tip #2: Being professional on placements

  • Always introduce yourself to patients, letting them know your name and that you are a medical student.
  • When you meet a patient for the first time, check if they have any objections to having a student present.
  • If your medical school or placement provider has given you an ID badge or similar, make sure it is visible at all times.
  • Dress smartly and in line with dress codes set out by your medical school or placement provider.
  • Arrive on time for your placement and do not leave your placement early unless you have agreed this with a relevant supervisor.
  • Attend induction sessions if they’re offered.
  • Attend all mandatory training arranged for you while on a placement.
  • Make sure you know about and follow the rules and guidance specific to your placement, including how you should raise any concerns. If in doubt, make sure you ask if there is anything in particular you should know at the start of your placement.
  • Be honest with patients if you don’t know the answer to their questions. Patients appreciate that you are there to learn.
  • Make sure you know who is responsible for directly supervising you on your placement and who has the overall responsibility for medical students where you are working. This will help you understand where to go if you need help and if you have any concerns you need to raise.
  • Be aware that while on any elective, in the UK or abroad, students should still apply the advice in this guidance wherever possible.

Practical tip #3: Consent – things to remember

Patients need to know that you are a student so they can make an informed decision about whether they want you to be involved in their care. Once they know you are student, you can ask if they’re happy for you to talk to them about their health or carry out a procedure.


  • if you have any concerns about whether a patient has given consent to you being involved in their care or undertaking any type of procedure, talk to your supervisor about your concerns.
  • you should be aware that sometimes patients might not have the capacity to give consent.
  • you should not carry out any procedure on a patient without their consent for that specific procedure.
  • you must respect the decision of patients who do not want you to be involved in their care.