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Practice Experience Program – Code of Conduct


1. Policy declaration

The RACGP holds members, Fellows and those working toward Fellowship to high expectations of professional and ethical behaviour, professional conduct, integrity and honesty. Participants enrolled in the RACGP Practice Experience Program (PEP) are subject to a zero tolerance approach to academic misconduct and unethical or unprofessional behaviour of any kind.

This document outlines the performance and conduct expected of participants in both the Specialist and Standard Streams of the PEP.

2. Background

General practitioners play a unique role in the communities they serve, and as such bear unique ethical and professional responsibilities towards those communities and the individuals within them. Doctors in a general practice education support program should embody the behaviours expected of qualified specialists, and, in addition to honing their clinical skills and knowledge during their program, should embrace the qualities of professionalism as required by regulatory and educational bodies across Australia.

The Medical Board of Australia’s Good medical practice: A code of conduct for doctors in Australia is a foundational document in outlining the professional and ethical requirements of all medical practitioners, noting that:

In professional life, doctors must display a standard of behaviour that warrants the trust and respect of the community. This includes observing and practising the principles of ethical conduct.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners’ (RACGP’S) curriculum places these requirements at the heart of general practice through their inclusion in the ‘Five domains of general practice’, the Member Code of Conduct, and through disciplinary processes such as the Academic Misconduct Policy and the  Fellowship Policy.

This Practice Experience Program Code of Conduct (‘the Code’) seeks to centre these fundamental behaviours within an educational context, and specifically within the context of the PEP. The PEP requires participants to display educational as well as clinical integrity; active involvement in their own learning; the capacity for self-reflection with regards to their professional behaviour, educational and clinical decision making; and respectful engagement with other members, RACGP and Training Organisation staff and medical educators, practice staff and clinical assessors with whom they will interact during their program.

3. Scope

This Code applies to all participants who have been accepted into the PEP.

4. Definitions

For the purposes of this policy:

  1. AHPRA means Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.
  2. The Code means this Code of Conduct.
  3. Academic misconduct includes any form of unacceptable or improper behaviour by a participant:
    1. affecting the educational validity of their RACGP examination or assessment process or that of the examination or assessment itself
    2. involving lack of transparency, honesty or integrity connected to an RACGP examination or assessment process
    3. including a failure to comply with a direction, instruction, procedure, rule or policy issued by the RACGP in relation to an examination or assessment regardless of the medium in which the conduct occurs.
  4. Good Medical Practice guidelines means the Medical Board of Australia’s Good medical practice: A code of conduct for doctors in Australia.
  5. MBA means Medical Board of Australia.
  6. Participant means a medical practitioner who has been accepted into the PEP.
  7. PEP means the RACGP’s Practice Experience Program.
  8. RACGP means The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
  9. RACGP assessments means all summative and formative assessments required of participants, as amended from time to time.
  10. RACGP examinations means the Applied Knowledge Test (AKT), Key Feature Problem (KFP) and Clinical Examination, which depending on the time of sitting, is the Objective Structured Clinical Exam (OSCE), Remote Clinical Exam (RCE) or Clinical Competency Exam (CCE).
  11. Restriction means conditions, suspensions or undertakings associated with the doctor’s medical registration with AHPRA. Definitions of these can be found on the AHPRA website.
  12. Training Organisation means both Regional Training Organisations (RTOs) and the Remote Vocational Training Scheme (RVTS).

5. General principles

5.1 Applicants to the PEP are required to sign a Program Agreement before they are formally accepted into the program. It is expected that all signatories to the Program Agreement have read this Code and understand its stipulations.

5.2 Participants are responsible for ensuring that they have read and understood the Code and its requirements. Claims that the participant breached the Code due to inexperience or ignorance must be disregarded.

5.3 Failure to adhere to the Code may be handled as per the Member Code of Conduct or the Academic Misconduct Policy.

6. Code of Conduct

6.1 Personal conduct

General practitioners are required to communicate and collaborate with a wide range of people from diverse backgrounds. They have a responsibility towards those they work with, and as such, the RACGP expects participants to strive at all times for respectful interactions and engagement with those around them.

Participants must:

  1. Treat all people with respect, dignity, honesty, courtesy, fairness and trust.
  2. Be respectful of all people, regardless of culture, beliefs, values, gender, and/or religion.
  3. Value the contributions of others, and work in a collaborative and cooperative manner with them.
  4. Refrain from any behaviour that might be construed as bullying, harassment or discriminatory.
  5. Demonstrate respectful behaviour in all interactions with those around them, and adhere to the requirements of the RACGP Member Code of Conduct regarding the minimum standard of conduct expected of members when dealing with one another, RACGP and Training Organisation staff, practice staff and medical educators.
  6. Advise the RACGP in a timely manner of any conflicts of interest or perceived conflicts of interest.
  7. Ensure that the use of alcohol or drugs does not impede participation in the education program or assessments, or impact professional behaviour.
  8. Make the RACGP and Training Organisation aware of personal circumstances that might impede compliance with program requirements.

6.2 Professional conduct

Professional conduct includes clinical knowledge and skills, ethical behaviour and adherence to relevant legislation, and ensuring that the patient is at all times central to practice.

Participants must:

  1. Ensure that patient safety is of the highest concern, and act at all times in the best interests of patients.
  2. Treat all personal and/or confidential information with respect and in accordance with privacy legislation requirements.
  3. Ensure that their behaviour is at all times respectful of others.
  4. Treat patients without discriminating on the basis of personal characteristics such as age, gender, marital status, ethnicity, religion, lifestyle, sexual orientation, gender identity, culture, disability or their insurance status.
  5. Ensure that communication is clear, respectful, effective and patient-centred.
  6. Maintain appropriate personal boundaries with patients at all times, and identify and manage patients where there is a blurring of therapeutic boundaries. This includes, but is not limited to, consultation with practice colleagues and/or the PEP medical educator.
  7. Seek the involvement of other healthcare professionals or more experienced colleagues if this will benefit the patient.
  8. Behave in an appropriate manner at all times and comply with professional codes of conduct such as the Good Medical Practice guidelines, and abide by all relevant legislation, regulations, codes and guidelines.
  9. Maintain appropriate levels of professional indemnity insurance and medical registration.
  10. Make both the RACGP and Training Organisation aware of restrictions, conditions, suspensions and/or undertakings imposed on, or changes to, their medical registration within 15 National Office business days of being notified of the change or restriction. Participants must disclose changes to their medical registration to the RACGP via email to education@racgp.org.au. Failure to do this will be handled as per the Academic Misconduct Policy.

6.3 Academic conduct

The RACGP expects all participants to conform to acceptable and appropriate standards of behaviour, as well as engaged learning and a capacity for educational self-reflection when undertaking RACGP examinations or other assessments. It is the responsibility of the participant to take an active role in their learning process. This means not only undertaking to satisfactorily complete all education requirements as set out by RACGP as part of PEP, but also undertaking self-directed learning, being a reflective learner and taking responsibility for learning, as evidenced by a structured, planned approach.

Participants must:

  1. Abide by the terms and conditions of the PEP as determined by the RACGP and Training Organisation and outlined in respective RACGP and Training Organisation policies and procedures.
  2. Maintain an attitude of honesty in relation to all assessment and educational activities.
  3. Refrain from plagiarism in any form, whether intentional or accidental. Plagiarism includes copying any material without correct referencing, and applies to all publication mediums: hard copy (books, journals, theses etc.); soft copy and digital formats (podcasts, audio, internet, e-journals, etc.) or live presentations. Types of plagiarism include, but are not limited to:
    1. Copying ideas, phrases, paragraphs, formulae, methods, diagrams or images without correctly referencing the source;
    2. Copying from another participant’s work;
    3. Changing the order of words taken from other material but retaining the original idea or concept without correct referencing;
    4. Quoting from a speech, event or lecture without acknowledging the speaker;
    5. Quoting from a secondary source without acknowledging the primary source;
    6. Recycling your own previously submitted work.
  4. Refrain from any other behaviour that might undermine the integrity of any assessment process.
  5. Take responsibility for understanding and complying with all relevant RACGP and Training Organisation policies and procedures.
  6. Actively participate in learning activities, optimising the educational experiences and opportunities presented.
  7. Evaluate program experiences in the PEP. This includes the requirements to complete and return feedback reports, surveys and questionnaires sent out by the RACGP and/or Training Organisation throughout the program in a timely manner.
  8. Be open to, and seek feedback from, others to improve their own knowledge and skills, and use this feedback for the purpose of developing their skills.
  9. Undertake to evaluate and reflect on their own performance to improve knowledge and skills. This includes reflecting on their own performance, openly discussing with their supervisor and RACGP and Training Organisation medical educators any errors and weaknesses, and alerting their supervisor to any problems that might adversely affect their performance as a participant and as a clinician.
  10. Complete assessment activities as required, including:
    1. Making suitable arrangements for workplace assessments and clinical assessments and the associated requirement for written patient consent.
    2. Making suitable arrangements to attend educational activities and/or assessments as required.
    3. Endeavouring to satisfactorily complete all PEP assessment requirements and Fellowship exam requirements in the scheduled time frame.
  11. Meet prescribed deadlines and respond to requests for information in a timely manner.

7. Non-compliance

Non-compliance with this policy may result in disciplinary measures, including but not limited to:

  1. requiring that the participant develop a performance improvement plan
  2. investigation under the Academic Misconduct Policy
  3. referral to the RACGP Professional Standards Committee
  4. withdrawal from the PEP as per the Practice Experience Program Withdrawal Policy.

8. Related policies, documents and legislation

All policies and guidance documents related to the Practice Experience Program are available at the policy page.

9. Administrative procedures

9.1 Access to published policy

This policy will be available via the RACGP website as detailed in clause 8.

9.2 Promulgation of published policy

Relevant staff members will be provided communications explaining the function and role of this policy.

9.3 Review of this policy

This policy will have a review cycle of one year.