When do our student members turn to us for help? We look at some of the most recent student calls to the MDU advice line – and the guidance we've given.

'I am facing a student FTP hearing due to misconduct.'

Each year we receive a number of calls from students about to face fitness to practise procedures at their medical school. In 2015 and 2016, calls related to drug and alcohol misuse, poor attendance and conduct, poor academic performance, accusations of plagiarism or forgery, and allegations of harassment.

Every situation is different, and the extent to which we are able to help students may vary in each instance. We suggest that you call our advisory line as soon as possible to see if we can help with individual guidance.

In any circumstance where your conduct is called into question, the most important thing you will need to do is demonstrate insight and remediation. Your medical school will want to know that you have learnt from what happened and have identified coping skills for the future. 

Draft a reflective piece, giving an honest account of what happened and what you will do – or are currently doing – to remediate the situation. Include references to GMC guidance wherever you can; show your commitment to your education and future career.

The GMC's guidance on professional behaviour and fitness to practise also provides useful information.

'I have been seeking support for mental health issues. Will this affect my ability to practise?'

Receiving mental health treatment should not be a bar to obtaining GMC registration if you are fit to practise. On the contrary, showing that you are being proactive about dealing with your health issues will be seen as a positive.

The GMC recognises that doctors experience mental health conditions, and are only interested when a doctor's mental illness puts patients at risk. In order to grant registration, the GMC wants to see that doctors have insight and seek independent advice and treatment – and don't simply rely on their own assessment.

As a student, telling your medical school about any serious health problems that could affect your training will show that you have insight and awareness – and will also allow your medical school to support you in seeking help and managing your condition.

See also the GMC's mythbusters about common misconceptions students have about their mental health.

'I am applying for provisional registration. What do I need to disclose to the GMC?'

When applying for GMC registration, you will be required to make a declaration of fitness to practise.

In the last two years we have received a number of calls from final year students enquiring about whether they need to inform the GMC of previous cautions or convictions.

The GMC's advice on declaration of fitness to practise provides detailed information on what you will and won't have to include when requesting provisional registration.

We advise that it's always best to be honest from the outset, with both your medical school and the GMC. If even a minor incident comes to light that you should have declared, you will face really serious questions about your honesty and the level of your insight into what happened.

We advise that it's always best to be honest from the outset.

'I'm worried I may have breached patient confidentiality. What should I do?'

It's not uncommon to hear of students inadvertently storing clinical data on personal devices, or losing a piece of equipment, such as a memory stick, with confidential patient information on it.

We have also heard of examples where inadvertent breaches arise while students are on placement, or where an off-hand comment about a patient to a friend or family member blurs the lines of confidentiality.

The best thing to do is to make a detailed note of any potential confidentiality breach, and discuss with your supervisor or tutor. If the breach took place while you were on placement, it may need to be raised as an adverse incident by your practice or hospital. They will then determine the steps that need to be taken; this could include an apology to the patient.

It's also a good idea to reflect on the incident in your portfolio, and use it as part of your learning.

'Someone I know well is now undergoing treatment at the hospital where I'm on placement.'

As a medical student, you will need to be aware of the importance of maintaining professional boundaries with patients. The GMC's Good medical practice makes it clear that wherever possible, you must 'avoid providing medical care to yourself or anyone with whom you have a close relationship'.

We advise student members not to become involved in the care of anyone they are close to, to avoid potential conflicts of interest. If you find yourself in this situation, you should inform your consultant or supervisor so that they can determine the best course of action.

As a student joining a regulated profession, it is your duty to put patients first.

'I'm worried about a fellow medical student, who appears to be abusing drugs and alcohol with increasing frequency.'

Concerns about a friend in this situation are more than justified – they could be posing a threat not just to themselves but, if the problem continues to develop, to patients.

We would advise that you speak to the student and recommend that they actively seek help and be open with their medical school about their problem.

If the friend refuses to seek help, you will need to consider raising your concerns with your university. The GMC's Achieving good medical practice reiterates that, as a student joining a regulated profession, 'it is your duty to put patients first' and that, if you are worried about the safety or wellbeing of a peer, you must bring this to the attention of your medical school so that they can provide the right help and support.

The above is just a sample of the calls that come into our advice line from students every year. If you have an issue and would like to see if the MDU can help, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

This page was correct at publication on 21/02/2017. Any guidance 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.