Women medical students better at spotting poor behaviour

FEMALE medical students are better than men at identifying unacceptable behaviour, according to a survey on professionalism by the General Medical Council.

Just over 2,500 UK students were asked a series of questions about various scenarios, from dodging train fares to going back to a patient’s home for coffee, to gauge their attitudes on issues such as honesty, raising concerns, confidentiality and social media use.

Results showed women were generally more likely than men to regard unprofessional behaviour as unacceptable or mostly unacceptable.

In one example, male students were found to be twice as likely as women to say that going back to a patient’s home for coffee after bumping into them on a night out was acceptable/mostly acceptable (27 per cent of men compared with 13 per cent of women). More than half of female students (54 per cent) deemed this behaviour unacceptable compared to 42 per cent of male students.

Similarly, women were more likely to regard openly discussing details of an anonymous patient’s examination on a bus as unacceptable/mostly unacceptable (81 per cent) than their male counterparts (74 per cent).

When questioned about the acceptability of buying drugs online to help studying, 94 per cent of women deemed it unacceptable/mostly unacceptable, compared to 90 per cent of men.

Overall, the GMC said the report showed that: “Broadly, most students have an understanding of professionalism that matches what we would expect from future doctors.”

But it added: “It’s clear that some students do still have some doubts about the acceptability of raising concerns or refusing to carry out procedures they don’t feel ready for. Medical schools and medical educators must continue to encourage students to raise concerns and help them to take action where necessary.”

The survey asked students whether it was acceptable to refuse to site a cannula if they had never done it before and didn’t feel confident. Seventy six per cent of respondents thought this was acceptable with a further 20 per cent saying it is mostly acceptable. But when asked about raising patient safety concerns to the attention of their medical school, students were slightly less comfortable – 71 per cent found this acceptable and a further 25 per cent said it would be mostly acceptable.

Other findings suggest the majority of students (77 per cent) feel it is unacceptable/mostly unacceptable for a cash-strapped student to dodge paying a train fare, and most (87 per cent) also take a similarly dim view of criticising a lecture or lecturer on Facebook.

The GMC plans to use the survey findings, along with feedback from medical schools and other groups, to help draft new guidance for students. A full public consultation is due to be held this summer with final guidance published in early 2016.