Working outside your competency level

A third year student had been asked to catheterise a patient. He was unsure how to do this, so asked the patient to hold up his mobile phone showing a YouTube video of how to catheterise a patient. Although he successfully performed the procedure, the patient complained and the student called the MDU for advice.

GMC student fitness to practise guidance (paragraph 16) is very clear that students should:

  1. recognise and work within the limits of their competence and ask for help when necessary
  2. accurately represent their position or abilities
  3. make sure they are supervised appropriately for any clinical task they perform

You should be properly supervised when learning new procedures, and make sure the patient has given consent. You should certainly not feel pressured to do so if you are not competent.

Make it clear to your supervising consultant/colleague that you are willing to learn and will either watch someone undertake the procedure, or do it yourself under supervision. Don't ever ask your patient to hold up a video of how to do it.

This guidance was correct at publication 06/06/2013. 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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