Project PEOLC37

Medical students understanding of professionalism on entering medical school

This project examines medical students’ understanding and concerns relating to professional behaviours expected of them on entering medical school.


On entering medical school within the United Kingdom, students are accountable to their Medical School and to the General Medical Council for their behaviour. Medical students face higher expectations of their professional behaviour compared to students studying other subjects. It is therefore important to explore their concerns.

Project Aims

The study is investigating first year medical students understanding of acceptable and unacceptable behaviours, and their concerns over the consequences of unprofessional behaviours. The aim is to gain a baseline understanding of student views to guide education and learning practices.

Project Activity

The 2023 entry cohort to the University of Cambridge medical school were invited to complete a brief questionnaire on the first day of their course: 295 responses from 320 students responded (response rate 92%). In free text responses students expressed a variety of concerns around meeting expectations and standards including: work-life balance, fulfilling their role, making mistakes, learning and education and adherence to professional behaviour rules.

Anticipated or actual outputs

Information from this study will be used to inform medical student teaching in Cambridge and across the UK.

Who is involved?

Professor Stephen Barclay, Professor of Palliative Care Primary Care Unit, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge.

Dr Allison Bentley, Research Associate (corresponding researcher) Primary Care Unit, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge.

Dr Elizabeth Fistein, Consultant Psychiatrist and Professional Responsibilities Course Lead, School of Clinical Medicine, University of Cambridge.

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