When applying for posts it is understandable to want to stand out from other candidates. However, it's important to check the validity of any qualifications and experience before you submit this to a potential employer.
In the MDU's experience, it's rare for students and doctors to be deliberately misleading about their academic and professional experience, but we have supported some doctors with GMC investigations after incorrect or out-of-date information on their CV was given to an employer.
These have included references to postgraduate degrees, clinical experience and authorship of academic papers or book chapters.
The BMJ also recently reported on a consultant who was appointed editor in chief of the RCP's journal Clinical Medicine after falsely claiming he was a fellow of the college (a requirement for the role) rather than just a member. There have also been stories in the press of fake degrees and qualifications available to buy online – and several healthcare professionals who allegedly made use of these services to further their careers.
Doctors hold a trusted position in society, writes the GMC in its student guidance Achieving good medical practice - and as a student aiming to join a trusted profession, you must demonstrate honesty during your studies and when you start working as a doctor. This includes being 'honest about your experience and qualifications…you must not give your supervisors or teachers any misleading or false information about your qualifications or experience, or include such information in documents such as CVs and job applications' (page 43).
The GMC will check a doctor's university medical degree but it is up to employers to ensure that any additional qualifications mentioned in applications are valid. Where this is found not to be the case, it raises concerns about probity and could result in a doctor losing the chance of being selected for the job, and possibly a stressful GMC investigation and sanction on their registration.
No matter what stage you are at in your career, keep in mind the following when completing a job application.
- Be clear about the extent of your involvement in research, projects, writing articles and book chapters. Be careful not to overemphasise your contribution.
- If you're making reference to postgraduate qualifications, you must be clear about when these were taken and whether you have completed the examinations or courses, or whether you are still in the process of obtaining them. If you have only passed part of an exam for a professional qualification, you should make it clear that the qualification is still in progress.
- Be honest about your previous experience or training. Be clear about any additional training you have had (for example, specialist interests) and when this took place.
- If you are sending your CV along with an application form, check carefully that your CV is up to date and there is no misleading information that is inconsistent with anything on the application form or with information provided to the potential employer by your referees.
- Make sure you accurately declare required information, such as whether you have been subject to disciplinary action, a GMC investigation, sanction or caution or if you have a criminal record. It's understandable to be concerned about the effect such declarations will have on your job prospects, but it is more important to respond honestly and openly. This can avoid a referral to the GMC by your prospective employer.
- When sitting membership exams or other university courses or taking part in research projects, be clear about which work is yours and which quotes are from other sources. This will avoid any misunderstandings; bearing in mind that plagiarism detection software makes it easier to detect similarities in work submitted. As this type of misconduct calls into question a doctor's probity, it is likely to be brought to the attention of the GMC.
While getting on in your career takes drive and commitment, this shouldn't be at the expense of accuracy and integrity. Where a doctor's honesty is called into question in this way, it can have very serious consequences for their registration and their future career. Always be clear about your qualifications and experience - because honesty is definitely the best policy.
Dr Kathryn Leask
Dr Kathryn Leask
BSc (Hons) MBChB (Hons) LLB MA MRCPCH FFFLM MRCPathME DMedEth
Kathryn has been a medico-legal adviser with the MDU since 2007 and is a team leader, trainer and mentor in the medical advisory department. Before joining the MDU, she worked in paediatrics gaining her MRCPCH in 2002 and did her specialty training in clinical genetics. She has an MA in Health Care Ethics and Law, a Bachelor of Law and a Professional Doctorate in Medical Ethics. She is also a fellow of the Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine and has previously been an examiner and deputy chief examiner for the faculty. Kathryn is currently a member of the faculty’s training and education subcommittee and a member of the Royal College of Pathologists (medical examiner).
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