The development and maintenance of students’ professional behaviour and attitude is of increasing importance in medical education. Unprofessional behaviour in doctors has the potential to jeopardise patient safety, compromise working relationships, and cause disruption and distress. The General Medical Council issues guidance to medical schools and students describing the standards that should be attained.
Nottingham University medical school introduced a ‘Concerns’ form in 2009, to create a standardised, transparent and defensible means of recording and handling complaints about adverse attitudes or behaviours. This paper reports an audit of the system over the first three years.
The routinely-held database was enhanced with further detail collected from relevant student records. The data were explored in terms of the types of complaint, students who were reported, the people who reported them, and the actions taken afterwards. The data were also mapped to the current GMC guidance.
189 valid forms were generated, relating to 143 students. The form was used by a wide variety of people, including clinical and non-clinical teachers, administrators, Hall Wardens, and fellow students. The concerns ranged from infringements of regulations to serious fitness to practise issues. Most were dealt with by faculty or pastoral care staff but some required escalation to formal hearings. The complaints were mapped successfully to GMC documentation, with the highest proportions relating to the GMC categories ‘Good Clinical Care’ and ‘Working with Colleagues’.
Male and ethnic minority students appeared to be more likely to have a Concern raised, but this is a tentative conclusion that requires a larger sample. Undergraduate (as opposed to Graduate Entry) students may also be at greater risk.
A simple form, freely available, but designed to prevent frivolous or malicious use, has provided valuable data on unprofessional behaviour and the responses elicited. Some parts of the form require improvements, and these are underway to provide more efficient use, audit and review in future.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-196) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.