6. Themed Days - Primary Care

6.2. Professionalism

Preparatory work

In preparation, students should have:

  • Read the General Medical Council’s (GMC) guidance for medical students and familiarised themselves with the Medical School’s Governance site and its guidance on issues that must be reported to the Medical School.
  • Looked at the GMC guidance on medical ethics and worked through some of the scenarios.
  • Watched some of the videos on GP careers on the health careers website.
  • Looked at their practice's website and reviewed the practice summary on Public Health England's (PHE) National General Practice Profiles website to get an idea of the practice's locality and patient population.
  • Established which Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and/or health authority their placement is in and read from the relevant Local Authority Health Profile to get a feel for what some of the major causes of morbidity and mortality are in the area. Whether or not their first placement is in Tower Hamlets students might like to read this Profile of Tower Hamlets to get a feel for the area local to the Medical School, this may be similar or very different to the area where their GP practice is located.  



  • To introduce students to the concept of professionalism and what it means in practice in a primary care setting.
  • To consider how COVID-19, specifically the increased use of remote consultation, has impacted on the doctor patient relationship.
  • To orientate students to the practice area.


Learning outcomes

By the end of the day students should be able to:

  • Define professionalism
  • Describe the professional attributes and behaviours expected of medical students
  • Outline their responsibilities as medical students, including reporting pathways within the healthcare environment and at Medical School
  • Describe the principles of medical ethics
  • Discuss the public perception of medical professionalism
  • Discuss the roles of a doctor working in primary care including clinician, business partner, employer, line manager, trainer, clinical commissioner etc.


Example timetable

9.30 – 10.30

Tutorial - What is professionalism?


10.30 – 10.45

Tea break


10.45 – 11.30

Community area profile- group discussion of pre-reading, provide map and instructions for virtual walkabout and signpost students to other resources


11.30 – 12.15


Virtual walkabout in small groups


12.15 – 13.00

Small group presentations and group debrief on walkabout findings


13.00 – 14.00

Lunch break


14.00 – 15.00

Breakout task – ethical cases/role-plays in small groups


Includes tea break

15.15 – 16.00

Group debriefs on ethical cases

Set homework for next session



Suggested activities:

  • Tutorial - What is professionalism? Could include ethics, consent, social media/confidentiality, professional relationships; how students are expected to conduct themselves – attendance, group conduct, dress code. Consider specifics for virtual platforms; ethics and COVID-19; so many ‘hot topics’ e.g. PPE, remote consultations, practitioner wellbeing. Lots COVID-19 specific guidance and FAQs on BMA site
  • Breakout task - ethical cases given to students to discuss in small groups e.g.  consent, confidentiality, unprofessional colleague, inappropriate use social media. Regroup and debrief after small group discussions.
  • Remote consultation RCGP resources
  • Community area profile – group discussion of pre-reading, PHE’s profiles for the borough and the practice. What did students notice for London/specific borough/practice compared to national data? e.g. see age profile graph showing younger age of London/Newham’s population - how might this affect health and socioeconomic issues in area?
  • Virtual walkabout – students are assigned a patch/road in practice catchment area. Could use Google maps, other local area maps e.g. Newham LocalView Maps, where you can enter practice address and then search for nearby facilities, and local services websites e.g.  Active Newham map and information. Signpost where else students could find local information to help them build a community profile, such as local press and social media or searching for other online resources e.g. YouTube video (watch from 6.30-9.30) walking through the Stratford centre. Each group notes down their key observations to present to the group. After this, students should attempt to generate hypotheses about possible health and social problems (and opportunities) for the practice population; there is further guidance for students in appendix 8.3.
  • Discuss the roles of a GP with the GP tutor and/or other doctors at the practice.
  • Meet/sit in with other members of the healthcare team and find out what being professional means to them.
  • Read this recent article ‘Exploring the Hidden Curriculum’s Impact on Medical Students: Professionalism, Identity Formation and the Need for Transparency’ and discuss as a group.


Questions for students to consider

  • What reasons do patients present in general practice? Do you think patients communicate differently with non-clinical and with clinical staff?
  • Why should you ensure patient’s consent to any examination and treatment has been obtained?
  • How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the day-to-day workings of primary care and the patient’s experience of “seeing” their GP?
  • Having completed your community profile, what did you think of the area?  Were you taken aback by anything?  Did you think the facilities in the area would help people to live a healthy lifestyle?  What would you like to change about the area and why?