Our guidance for medical students
As a medical student you're part of today's health services. You'll meet patients and members of the public who’ll put their trust in you. This is a privilege, but it comes with responsibilities for both your clinical and personal life.
With so much to learn, it's easy to put off thinking about professional standards. But the sooner you get to grips with them, the sooner you can establish positive habits that will stand you in good stead for the rest of your career.
Achieving good medical practice
Our core guidance for doctors is called Good medical practice. It sets out the principles of good practice which all doctors must be familiar with.
Achieving good medical practice shows how these principles apply to you as a medical student. It answers questions like how to be professional in clinical placements, what are the 'dos and don'ts' for social media, how to handle unconscious bias and how to behave outside of medical school.
Understanding how our guidance applies now and later in your career will help you to be a good student and, in the future, a good doctor.
We've produced tools to help you apply the guidance in practice, including:
- myth busters and frequently asked questions about professionalism, including student fitness to practise procedures
- a explaining the importance of our professionalism guidance
- fictional case studies of students going through fitness to practise procedures.
Each year we also run a competition, where we invite students to create a learning resource about a different aspect of Achieving good medical practice. Have a look at the winning competition entries from previous years and keep an eye out for next year's competition!
Ask for help if you’re struggling
Everyone makes mistakes, gets ill or finds it hard to cope sometimes. Honesty is one of the fundamental qualities of medical professionalism. Being open about any problems you face will always be better than ignoring or lying about them.
Medical schools are there to support you. Seek help if you're struggling or worried about something. The vast majority of issues can be dealt with and won't stop you from becoming a doctor.
What happens if something goes wrong?
Achieving good medical practice can help you to understand what’s expected of you as a medical student, and what would be considered unprofessional.
Each year, about 1% of medical students go through professionalism or student fitness to practise procedures with their medical school. Most cases relate to unprofessional behaviour or 'misconduct', such as sharing patient information on social media, not being honest about missed teaching sessions, or plagiarising work. Despite what you might expect, this is a supportive process that usually results in the medical school putting support measures in place or issuing the student with a warning.
When you come to register with us, you’ll be asked to declare any previous fitness to practise issues openly and honestly. We have a duty to look into all issues declared, but the overwhelming majority of students who declare a fitness to practise issue go on to practise medicine.
A note on declaring criminal matters
When you apply for provisional registration with us at the end of your degree, we’ll ask you about any criminal matters you’re subject to. For example, if you’ve received a fixed penalty notice, caution, or conviction you may need to declare it to us.
While you’re studying, you should tell your medical school immediately if you’re the subject of any legal proceedings that could question your fitness to practise. The law is different across the United Kingdom, so whether you need to declare something depends on where you're studying.
You can find out more about what you need to tell your medical school in paragraphs 76 – 78 of Achieving good medical practice. And you can read our guide What to tell us when you apply to find out more about what you need to declare to us at the end of your degree.