Professionalism in Pre-Clinical Years

  1. Professional Dress
    Expectations for professional dress ("white-coat dress") will be provided in detail to you during orientation, including when professional dress is expected and what specifically to wear. For women, this includes skirts of an appropriate length and for men this includes ties. As a general rule, professional dress is expected during all interactions with patients, which may include visits with physician preceptors, standardized patient encounters, as well as formal academic conferences. Consult your professor for detailed expectations. Classroom dress is informal but should be tasteful. Remember that this is a clinical campus. Patients see you as their "future physicians." You will want to inspire confidence in your good judgment and maturity.
  2. Social Media
    It is expected that students maintain a professional presence on social media. This implicitly prohibits pictures or video of students in an unflattering or unprofessional light. Students must use their own judgment regarding what is appropriate or inappropriate on social media, but as a general rule, if you hesitate to post an update, video or photo, you should probably refrain. Likewise, professional language and attitude must be maintained on student group pages, including the class page on Facebook and other social media. Remember, what is innocent to some may be offensive to others. Students should also monitor their privacy settings to ensure that they are comfortable with the level and ease of accessibility of their information online. It is up to the student to determine what is appropriate, but remember: A future residency training director is likely to Google your name before offering you a position.
  3. Classroom Behavior
    It is expected that students maintain a high level of respect for both their fellow students and professors during class. Minimize noise and actions in class that may be distracting to others. This includes excessive talking, web browsing / video gaming on laptops, and being disruptive while entering or leaving the classroom. A respectful tone with professors must always be maintained. If you are called on during class and do not know the answer, indicate politely that you do not know.
  4. Class Email Listserv / Emails to Professors
    Students are allowed to send emails to the class listserv(s) but must be mindful that faculty and administrators are included on these email distribution lists. Therefore emails must be professional, constructive, and respectful. Frequent emails to the listserv or using "reply to all" when a concern could just be addressed to one individual is strongly discouraged. In addition, emails to professors must maintain a professional tone, which includes using proper spelling and grammar. If the issue is of concern to a number of students, you may want to enlist your class representative as the intermediary and spare the professor the "spam" of numerous emails about the same thing. Remember once an email it sent, it is out of your control. For that reason, NEVER "vent," or belittle or accuse others in an email. Emails develop long tails and can be forwarded to anyone. Even if your own message was benign, you may find yourself embroiled in a messy situation if the recipient scrolls down to the bottom. If you hesitate to put something in writing, just pick up the phone instead. A good rule of thumb is to refrain from putting anything in an email that one would be embarrassed to see on the front page of the local paper the next day.
  5. Student Conflicts with Classmates
    The most frequent issues brought to the Professionalism Committee are student conflicts with other students. Often, this is due to a misunderstanding or hurt feelings. As a general rule, students should try and work out their conflicts amongst themselves. Students should first seek to discuss the conflict with each other face-to-face, not via texting, email, or social media. Often conflicts escalate on electronic media. It can be difficult to judge the tone, and it is all too easy to type something hurtful. Once it's in writing, you cannot take it back, and you have lost control over who will read it. A simple face-to-face chat, although uncomfortable, can often clear up misunderstandings and resolve the problem. Students that are unable to reach an agreement or resolve a conflict can contact the Professionalism Committee for assistance.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but covers issues that arise more frequently than others. Remember that these are only general guidelines, not hard and fast rules.

The best way to develop your professionalism is to always maintain a positive attitude. A good attitude will carry you far in your medical education. THINK before you act. Treating others the way you would want to be treated likewise goes a long way.

If you have a Professionalism concern, question, or suggestion, please contact a member of the Professionalism Committee.

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Associate Dean:
Susan C. Brewer, MD

Scott E. Strome, MD
Robert Kaplan Executive Dean,
Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs
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Memphis, TN 38163