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Medical students’ perceptions of professional misconduct: relationship with typology and year of programme
  1. Juliana Zulkifli,
  2. Brad Noel,
  3. Deirdre Bennett,
  4. Siun O’Flynn,
  5. Colm O’Tuathaigh
  1. Medical Education Unit, School of Medicine, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Colm O’Tuathaigh, School of Medicine, Brookfield Health Sciences Complex, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland; c.otuathaigh{at}


Aim To examine the contribution of programme year and demographic factors to medical students’ perceptions of evidence-based classification categories of professional misconduct.

Methods Students at an Irish medical school were administered a cross-sectional survey comprising 31 vignettes of professional misconduct, which mapped onto a 12-category classification system. Students scored each item using a 5-point Likert scale, where 1 represents the least severe form of misconduct and 5 the most severe.

Results Of the 1012 eligible respondents, 561 students completed the survey, providing a response rate of 55%. Items pertaining to disclosure of conflict of interest were ranked as the least severe examples of professional misconduct, and this perception was highest among finalyear students. While ratings of severity declined for items related to ‘inappropriate conduct not in relation to patient’ and ‘inappropriate use of social media’ between years 1 and 3, ratings for both categories increased again among clinical cycle (fourth and final year) students.

Conclusions Increased clinical exposure during years 4 and 5 of the undergraduate programme was associated with better recognition of the importance of selected professional domains. Disclosure of conflict of interest is identified as an area of medical professionalism that requires greater emphasis for students who are at the point of transition from student to doctor.

  • professional misconduct
  • demographic surveys/attitudes

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  • Contributors JZ and CO’T designed the study, collected and analysed the data, and were involved in the preparation of the manuscript. BN, DB and SO’F were involved in data analysis and interpretation, and the preparation of the manuscript.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Clinical Research Ethics Committee of the Cork Teaching Hospitals.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.