Fitness to Practice

Fitness to practice is something that nearly every medical student will worry about at some point. It’s true that medical students do need to be a little more careful than other students, and you wont get away with some things, but fitness to practice is nothing to worry about. Firstly, you can party all night, drink as often as you like (as long as you’re not drunk for lectures or placements obviously!), you can have political views, religious opinions and can even be politically incorrect. Dress as you want outside of professional hours (this includes the time you spend in medical school) and just be a normal citizen.


During your time spent in medical school, at lectures, seminars and placements, you need to be considered as fit to practice, all this means is that you are responsible and competent in what you do, and your patients see you as a professional, trustworthy and respectful person. If you follow the GMC’s principles of good practice, you’ll be fine.  Becoming a doctor isn’t an easy option, so obviously you don’t want to throw away all of your hard work by being irresponsible.


In the principles of good practice, things that are mentioned include practising within your limits of competence, recording you work clearly, protecting patients and colleagues, effective communication within the team and with patients and contribution to the continuity and coordination of care. Finally, doctors must show respect for patients, and must treat everyone fairly and equally, acting with honesty and integrity.


What this means is that you wont get away with a public order offence, even a petty one. You have to live up to an ethical and professional standard, which other students don’t have to worry about. Keep out of trouble with the law, and generally you’ll be fine. Be careful to not be seen as showing any prejudices, don’t dress up as a Nazi for a Halloween party, that sort of thing. Don’t be rude or unprofessional, attend every single clinical placement unless you have a very good reason not to, turn up in smart-casual wear at the very least, and be honest.


Don’t ever lie to a patient, or break patient confidentiality rules. Patients need to be able to trust you, and some already aren’t the biggest fans of junior doctors! You can find out more about junior doctors and patients here. If you’re not supposed to do something, then don’t do it! Rules are rules, and you wouldn’t want to risk not being accepted as fit to practice. Out of professional hours, you’re free to do whatever you want that isn’t illegal, just be wary of having a severe hangover at a 9am lecture or clinical placement.


One other misconception surrounding the fitness to practice rules are that you’re not allowed to get a speeding ticket/parking fine/red light jumping ticket. This isn’t true; what you’re not allowed to do is make it a regular occurrence. One ticket is fine, two is sometimes acceptable, but any more and you’re in trouble. It shows a lack of conforming to the law, an unwillingness to take advice and generally is a mark down on you. If you do get one, which thousands of people do, don’t worry. Once you have one, however, make sure you’re extra careful not to rack them up.


Your fitness to practice is likely to be questioned if you have harmed patients or put them at risk of harm, shown deliberate recklessness or disregard of clinical responsibilities, shown signs of a drug or alcohol addiction, abused a patient’s trust or fundamental rights or if you have behaved dishonestly, fraudulently or deliberately harmed or mislead others. (Taken from the GMC fitness to practice document).