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Professional and Ethical Behavior Policies

In addition to achieving passing grades in all required courses and clerkships and passing Step I and Step II of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), medical students are required to adhere to standards of ethical behavior and professional conduct in order to graduate. Professional conduct encompasses demonstration of an interest in learning, appropriate interpersonal skills, respect for differences among fellow students, patients and colleagues, adherence to confidentiality guidelines, abidance by local and national laws, and adherence to the ethical principles listed below.  Ethical and professional behavior includes the expectation that students will do their own work and give credit to others where due, e.g., write their own reports or other assignments and give complete citations when quoting material from others, whether from the literature or the Web; and will neither give nor receive assistance from other students on examinations. Failure to demonstrate these attributes on one or more occasions can constitute grounds for review by the Medical Student Promotions Committee with dismissal from the College as a possible outcome.  

1. Ethical principles

The Carver College of Medicine insists that its students adhere to the following general principles of medical ethics. These are modified from the American Medical Association’s Principles of Medical Ethics, which are described as “standards of conduct that define the essentials of honorable behavior for the physician.”

A medical student shall:

  1. be dedicated to providing competent, compassionate, and respectful medical service to all patients, considering each as an individual, regardless of characteristics such as race, national origin, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, disease, or disability
  2. deal honestly with patients and colleagues, and strive to expose or otherwise respond in a professional manner to those persons of the health care team whose behavior exhibits impairment or lack of professional conduct or competence, or who engage in fraud or deception
  3. abide by the law
  4. respect the rights of patients including the right to confidentiality, and shall safeguard patient confidences within the constraints of the law
  5. continue to study, apply and advance scientific knowledge; make relevant information available to patients, colleagues, and the public; suggest consultation; and use the talents of other health professionals when indicated
  6. recognize a responsibility to participate in activities contributing to an improved society
  7. serve as a positive representative of the Carver College of Medicine and the medical profession as a whole by demonstrating social responsibility both on and off campus

2. Professional conduct

Examples of unethical behavior and unprofessional conduct include, but are not limited to:

  1. plagiarism (e.g., copying another student’s work, quoting material from the literature or the World Wide Web or any other source without proper citation and receiving credit for the work as one’s own)
  2. cheatinga community member who submits another’s work as his or her own or otherwise gains an unfair advantage over colleagues is guilty of cheating. Facilitation of these behaviors by a colleague likewise also constitutes cheating. Additionally, observation or knowledge of these behaviors is considered acquiescence by inaction* and considered a violation of the Honor Code. Examples of cheating include, but are not limited to the following:
    • Copying from another student’s examination, or allowing another student to copy from your examination
    • Collaboration during an examination with any person
    • Using unauthorized materials during a test
    • Taking prepared materials into a closed-book examination
    • Reproducing or communicating test questions without express permission of the course or clerkship director
  3. dishonesty
  4. falsification of documents
  5. violations of confidentiality
  6. mistreatment of patients, simulated or real
  7. inappropriate online activities, including materials made available through social networking sites
  8. displaying public behavior that may reflect negatively on the student, College, and profession (i.e. excessive consumption of alcohol, viewing potentially offensive medical images on public computers, discussing potentially offensive portions of the medical curriculum (i.e. anatomic dissection) or patient care, etc.)
  9. unlawful activity. Students who are placed under arrest must report this to a dean in the Office of Student Affairs and Curriculum within 48 hours. 

* Appropriate actions include: approaching the student directly about the observed action, consulting a member of the Honor Council, and/or contacting a Faculty member or an Administration representative.

3. The College of Medicine's Honor Code

The health care professions require people of superb character who lead lives that exemplify high standards of ethical conduct. A shared commitment to maintaining those standards, embodied in an Honor Code, creates an atmosphere in which community members can develop professional skills and strengthen ethical principles. The Honor Code demands that community members tell the truth, live honestly, advance on individual merit, and demonstrate respect for others in the academic, clinical and research communities.

The central purpose of the Honor Code is to sustain and protect an environment of mutual respect and trust in which students have the freedom necessary to develop their intellectual and personal potential. To support the community of trust, students and faculty must accept individual responsibility and apply themselves to developing a collegial atmosphere. The intent of the Honor Code is not merely to prevent students from lying, cheating and stealing or to punish those who violate its principles. Rather, participation in the Honor Code assures The University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine community that the integrity of its members is unquestioned and accepted by those in the academic, clinical and research communities. Participation in the Honor Code confers upon students the responsibility to respect and protect the integrity of The University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.

Read the Honor Code.

4. Confidentiality

Medical students are required to respect the rights of patients including the right to confidentiality and shall safeguard patient confidences within the constraints of the law.

As a member of the patient care team, students will have access to information from patient medical records and/or computer-stored information.  This information may not be discussed with anyone unless this disclosure is required in the performance of duties and responsibilities.  It is a breach of confidentiality to review medical records or to access computer-stored patient information not required in the performance of assigned duties. 

Students are responsible for maintaining the confidence of patients by sharing confidential information only with others who need to know and by handling any documentation of information appropriately.  Students are required to submit a signed confidentiality statement during Orientation and each year after that an online confidentiality statement is required.

Students should note that the confidentiality policy applies to all student-patient interactions, in both formal curricular and extracurricular or volunteer contexts.

Patient information furnished to The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and staff/payroll personnel data stored in EPIC are confidential.  The following are basic rules of confidentiality you are required to respect:

  1. Under no circumstances should any information that is not required in the performance of the job be accessed (read or copied).
  2. Information properly obtained while carrying out assigned duties may NOT be discussed with others who do not have the same need to know.
  3. Once confidential information is on paper and in a student’s hands, he/she is responsible to dispose of it appropriately: a) distribute to authorized persons only; b) file securely; c) destroy.

5. Dress Code

Students are expected to dress appropriately and to comport themselves in a manner consistent with the location and nature of their educational activities.

When students interact with patients, families, and health care professionals, “traditional” attire and physician-identifying clothing, such as a white coat with the Carver College of Medicine embroidered logo and a name badge, are appropriate. Medical students are expected to identify themselves as students at all times and must assume responsibility to clarify their role to patients.

The following is excerpted from the University Hospital Advisory Committee (HAC)’s Professional Appearance Policy for staff, faculty, physicians, students, and volunteers who are required by UI Hospitals and Clinics Photo Identification Card Policy to wear a UI Hospitals and Clinics identification badge. This initial policy was made effective January 1, 2004 and is available in full online at https://uihc.org/professional-appearance-policy-overview 

I. Grooming/Personal Hygiene

  • Staff, faculty, physicians, students, and volunteers must be physically clean, well groomed, and take steps to prevent and/ or address problems of offensive body odor.
  • Staff, faculty, physicians, students, and volunteers should avoid excessive use of fragrances and must be sensitive to scented chemicals that may be offensive or cause allergic or other adverse reactions for patients, visitors, or staff.
  • Hairstyle and/or color should not interfere with assigned duties or physical hazard to the patient, to self, or to another person.

II. Jewelry/Adornments

  • The wearing of jewelry, scarves, and accessories should not interfere with assigned duties and must not pose an infection or physical hazard to the patient, to self, families, or other persons should be covered during the time worked.
  • Tattoos and body art with wording or images that may be perceived as offensive (such as racial slurs, swear words, revealing body parts in a way that a reasonable person could perceive as inappropriate, symbols of death).

III. Clothing/Apparel/Uniforms

  • Clothing must be neat, clean, and free from offending odors.
  • Certain departments may require special dress standards (such as wearing uniforms).
  • Shorts, blue denim jean pants of any length, and exercise or workout clothing, including sweatpants, spandex, or leggings, are not considered appropriate attire. Denim jean pants in colors other than blue are acceptable if they are clean and in good condition with no holes, ragged hems, or patches. Groundskeepers and valets may wear knee-length shorts for exterior work.
  • Appropriate footwear to the job and duties is required. In addition, specific footwear requirements, such as steel-toed shoes, may be defined in areas with special safety concerns. Beach-type shoes (such as thongs or flip-flops) and bedroom slippers are not appropriate.
  • Caps or hats, unless worn for medical or religious reasons or for nature of specific duties (such as outdoor work), are not considered appropriate attire.
  • Shirts or other apparel with images, wording, or logos that may be perceived as offensive to patients, families, or others are not considered appropriate attire,
  • Tank tops, halter tops, or tops that leave the midriff or back exposed and skirts or other clothing that expose undergarments or could be perceived as sexually provocative to a reasonable person are inappropriate attire in light of the desire to be patient-centered.
  • Scrubs are to be worn in compliance with UI Hospitals and Clinics Policy III.05, Scrub Attire.

For more information, please call the Staff Information Hotline at 356-2444.

When students are assigned to clinical activities in the community, outside of UIHC or the VAMC, they should consider themselves as representatives of The University of Iowa Health Care. Hence, attire and behavior should promote a positive impression for the individual student, the specific course, and the institution. Specific dress requirements may be set by community-based clinical activities. These requirements typically will be included in written course materials, but if any doubt exists, it is the responsibility of the student to inquire.

There are strict protocols at UIHC and the VAMC regarding the appropriate use of scrub attire:

  • Maroon scrub suits may not be worn outside of the operating room suites
  • Other colored scrub suits may be worn anywhere in UIHC or the VAMC, and are especially practical on night-call, but, in general, students should wear their own clothes for patient care in clinics and on inpatient services. Scrub suits may not be taken home.
  • Bonnets, masks, foot coverings, and gowns from the operating suites look unprofessional when students are in the clinics or on the inpatient services. They should be removed before doing other patient care.

6. Course and lecture evaluations

Medical students’ responsible and timely evaluation of lectures, small groups and courses improves curricular and clinical requirements. Additionally, providing evaluation is an integral part of a physician’s career. In order to strengthen curricular offerings and build effective skills in communication, students should offer constructive feedback and avoid excessive negativism and offensive language.  

7. Attention to administrative details

Medical students are expected to attend to their administrative responsibilities in a timely manner. Examples of these responsibilities are paying their University bill on time, meeting the annual immunization requirements of Student Health Service, making and keeping appointments with OSAC deans and other administrators, meeting deadlines such as drop and add deadlines for courses and clerkships, turning in applications and other paperwork on time, etc.  Students who consistently violate these requirements and courtesies will be referred to the Associate Dean for Student Affairs with possible referral to the Medical Student Promotions Committee.

8. Collegiate computer misuse

Misuse of electronic communication equipment is considered a serious violation of the University Code of Student Ethics and may represent a violation of federal law.  Violations of University policy may result in the violator being brought before the Medical Student Promotions Committee with a possible outcome of dismissal from the College.  Common sense dictates that collegiate, University and hospital computers shall not be used to access or send to another person material of a potentially offensive nature.