Concerns about a fellow student

A student was worried about a fellow medical student and contacted the MDU for advice. 

She believed her friend was drinking excessively and knew he was taking drugs. He continually missed lectures, and had turned up to teaching sessions hung over and smelling of alcohol. Although the student did not want to 'tell tales', she was very concerned about him and wondered if she should let the medical school know.

MDU advice

The adviser reassured the student that she had done the right thing in expressing concern about her friend. Like fully qualified doctors, students have a duty to behave in a professional and responsible manner and to protect patients from harm. They should raise concerns if they believe their health or that of a colleague may be compromising patient safety.

In the GMC guidance Medical students: professional values and fitness to practise (2009) it states students should "raise concerns about overall practice in a healthcare setting or about colleagues, including other students, medical practitioners and other healthcare workers, with the appropriate person if patients are at risk of harm" (paragraph 32f). 

The adviser suggested that the student may wish to talk to her friend first and explain why she is worried about him. He may have an explanation for his behaviour that allays her concerns. Or the conversation may make him realise his behaviour has been unacceptable, and perhaps seek help. 

If after talking to her friend the student still has serious concerns, it would be appropriate to inform her educational or clinical supervisor, or the medical school dean.

This guidance was correct at publication 12/12/2014. It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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