CMSV 306 Guidelines for Ethical Conduct and Behavior

Policy Name: Guidelines for Ethical Conduct and Professional Behavior for the Physician Assistant Profession

College of Mount Saint Vincent Master of Science Physician Assistant Program students, in keeping with the mission and goals of the program, are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner that is consistent and aligns with the function of an institution of higher education. All students will reflect on their own behavior and actions and strive to abide by the highest standards of academic honesty, professional and personal ethics, and professional conduct.

Students are expected to demonstrate the legal, moral, and ethical standards required of all healthcare professionals, either within the classroom environment or the clinical setting.

Professional behavioral guidelines listed below are not meant to be all encompassing. Included below are the minimal acts of professional behavior that if followed will lead to a better understanding of what is expected of each student and, in turn, will allow professional growth and maturity as you progress throughout your professional careers:

  • Listens attentively and maintains eye contact when communicating with faculty, staff, and other medical professionals.
  • Contribute to professional knowledge by demonstrating motivation and a positive attitude toward learning.
  • Develop time and stress management behaviors that will demonstrate promptness in meeting course associated deadlines assigned to each student.
  • Understand and have respect for instructors by being on time for class, asking relevant questions that will enhance the educational advancement of the topic in discussion, and at all times refrain from being disruptive in class or clinic.
  • Show respect for all instructors by addressing them utilizing their preferred title (i.e. doctor, professor, etc.).
  • Show respect and consideration to fellow classmates by allowing them to express their concerns and questions, and refrain from making judgements or voicing opinions based upon personal biases.
  • Recognize the effects of tone of voice and body language when interacting with others and strive to speak in a clear and thoughtful manner allowing for time for the other party to comprehend your question and respond.
  • Value the opinion of your peers and refrain from making value judgements.
  • Show compassion and understanding toward every individual whom you are privileged to be treating. Respect is a two-way street.
  • React in a positive manner to questions, suggestions, and/or constructive criticism.
  • Recognize that once a negotiated decision has been reached, further discussion or actions may be nonproductive.
  • Demonstrate nondiscrimination practices towards peers, faculty, staff, and patients.

Timeliness and Lateness
Attendance and timeliness are important aspects of professional behavior. Students must report to all classes, labs, seminars, call back days, clinical sites, and other scheduled activities on time.  Timely return from designated breaks is required. Students must return messages from program staff, faculty, clinical preceptors, patients, and clinical sites in a timely manner (i.e. in less than 36 hours). Students must submit all required assignments and forms on or before the designated date and/or time they are due.

Proper Identification
Role and title confusion are common problems encountered in dealing with patients. Students should be aware of this problem and avoid misrepresentation by politely explaining their role and position and by wearing their ID badges/nameplates at all times. Students should use the designation ‘PA Student’ following all notations in the charts or on medical forms. The abbreviation ‘PA-S’ is less familiar and should be avoided to prevent title confusion.

Honesty and Trustworthiness
Physician assistant students, at all times during their professional didactic and clinical training, shall be honest and truthful in all respects. This refers to not only your peers, but also faculty and ancillary staff associated with the College of Mount Saint Vincent in all departments. This shall also include clinical preceptors, as well as hospital and clinic employees you come into contact with during your training. Students shall not intentionally mislead others.

Professional Demeanor
Physician assistant students by extension are representatives of the College of Mount Saint Vincent Master of Science Physician Assistant Program and must dress in professional, neat, and conservative attire. Nametags or ID badges are required to be worn at all times. Good personal hygiene is always required. Please review the Student Policies/Dress Code for more information on the dress code applicable to physician assistant students.

Student Responsibilities
Unethical behavior is never appropriate. Program students are responsible for identifying and reporting unprofessional, unethical, and/or illegal behavior witnessed by other healthcare professionals, fellow students, faculty, and staff of the College’s program. If a student has a reasonable belief that such conduct has occurred, he or she should report it to the program director, preceptor, supervisor, or clinical coordinator as may be appropriate under the circumstances.

Students at clinical sites must always work under the supervision of a preceptor and are strictly prohibited from assuming primary-care responsibility for a patient’s medical treatment.

Students shall not treat or discharge a patient without prior consultation and approval of a clinical preceptor or physician supervisor.

Patient Treatment Orders
Under no circumstances should a student initiate orders for any patient while on a clinical rotation without immediate physician/physician assistant consultation and countersignature. Under no circumstances should a student sign or call in prescriptions. The only name that should appear on a prescription is that of the supervising physician or physician assistant

Any student whose actions directly or indirectly jeopardize the health and safety of patients, faculty, clinical site staff, or fellow students may be immediately removed from the classroom or clinical site and/or face disciplinary action.

Patient Confidentiality
Students’ will interact with patients, families, and a variety of healthcare professionals during their education and future professional career. Students are expected to maintain patient confidentiality, safety, and dignity as set forth in the American Academy of Physician Assistants’ Guidelines for Ethical Conduct for the Physician Assistant Profession.

Students are strongly advised to never discuss a patient’s medical records. This includes, but is not limited to, any situation or clinical setting that would reveal any information about a particular patient or his/her confidential records to person (or persons) not involved in the patient’s immediate healthcare. Any information obtained regarding the patient and their illness or their social condition, including all items within a patient’s medical history, is to be regarded as privileged information.

No patient information is to be removed from the hospital or clinical setting. If photocopies of work are to be submitted to the program for evaluation, then all specific references to the patient (i.e. name, address, ID number, etc.) must be physically removed as per HIPAA regulations.

Under no circumstances should a student initiate orders for any patient while on a clinical rotation without immediate physician/physician assistant consultation and countersignature. Under no circumstances should a student sign or call in prescriptions. The only name that should appear on a prescription is that of the supervising physician or physician assistant.

Concern for the Patient
Physician assistant students must, by their words and behavior, demonstrate concern for the patient. Concern for the patient is manifested in many ways including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Physician assistant students must treat patients and their families with dignity and respect.
  • At all times the physical and emotional comfort of the patient is of paramount importance.
  • Students must use appropriate verbal and nonverbal communication to convey concern, pleasantness, and professionalism to the patient.
  • The patient’s modesty should be considered at all times.
  • Students shall deliver healthcare services to patients without regard to their race, religion, national origin, age, sex, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation, creed, disability, medical condition, socioeconomic status or political beliefs, or any status protected by law.
  • Students may not accept gifts or gratuities from patients or their families.
  • Sexual and romantic relationships with patients are prohibited and will not be tolerated.

Health and Safety
Any student whose actions directly or indirectly jeopardize the health and safety of patients, faculty, clinical site staff, or fellow students may be immediately removed from the classroom or clinical site and/or face disciplinary action.

Maintaining Composure
It is noted that at times, either in the classroom or clinical setting, a physician assistant student may find themselves in a highly stressful personal or clinical emergency setting. It is at these specific times that the physician assistant student must maintain a professional and calm demeanor regardless of the situation presented.

Drugs and Alcohol
Students shall not appear at the College or clinical sites under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Should this occur, the student will immediately be removed from the rotation/class and referred for disciplinary action. Please review the Drug and Alcohol Policy for more information.

Professional Ethics
The following is an excerpt from the American Academy of Physician Assistants Guideline for Ethical conduct for the PA Profession (Adopted 2000, reaffirmed 2013, amended 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2018):

“The PA profession has revised its code of ethics several times since the profession began. Although the fundamental principles underlying the ethical care of patients have not changed, the societal framework in which those principles are applied is constantly changing. Economic pressures, social pressures of church and state on the healthcare system, technological advances, and changing patient demographics continually transform the landscape in which PAs practice. This policy, as written, reflects a point in time and should be reviewed though that lens. It is a living document to be continually reviewed and updated to reflect the changing times, be they related to societal evolutions or the advancement of medical science.”

All College of Mount Saint Vincent-Physician Assistant Students are expected to familiarize themselves with this important and vital document. This document will act as a template to guide the professional physician assistant student as he or she navigates their way through their professional career.

Please note: The professional conduct of physician assistant students is evaluated on an on-going basis throughout the professional phase (i.e. the didactic and clinical years) of the program. Violations of standards of conduct are subject to disciplinary actions administered by the College of Mount Saint Vincent and by the Master of Science Physician Assistant Program.