Guidelines on Professionalism

Following are guidelines on professionalism at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S).

Honesty and Integrity

  • Students must not copy notes in the medical record, copy notes from house staff or faculty, paraphrase an author’s ideas or work without proper citation.
  • Students must assure the accuracy and completeness of their part of the medical record and must be committed to providing the best possible patient care.

Respect and Collaboration

  • Students must treat others with fairness and respect, work collaboratively, and help fellow students whenever appropriate in their shared pursuit of learning and optimal patient care.

Policies and Laws

  • Students must abide by all P&S and Columbia University policies and procedures, as well as all hospital policies where they are assigned, and be familiar with the policies.

Confidentiality and Disclosure of Protected Information

  • Students are responsible for the security of confidential, sensitive and protected patient information (digital and paper-based), and are prohibited from posting images or other patient information on social networking sites, the internet, or anywhere else.
  • Students must be knowledgeable about and abide by HIPAA policies, and utilize only Columbia University email systems for patient and Columbia matters. They must not auto-forward Columbia University email to Gmail and other unapproved email systems.
  • Students must encrypt portable devices, e.g., laptops and USB drives, etc., used to store patient or individual research data, and encrypt data files with protected health information (PHI) if stored on a portable device that is not encrypted.
  • Students must not take photos or videos of patients except for purposes of documentation in the medical record, and then, only with prior written consent of the respective institution, and when possible, of the patient. Such images must not leave Columbia University Medical Center on a student’s electronic device and may not be transmitted in any way other than from one approved email system to another approved email system and only to those caring for the patient.
  • Students are permitted to access patient electronic medical records and other PHI for patients they are following, cross covering or have directly encountered with their team as part of their clinical clerkships, electives, and selectives. They are permitted continued access after the patient is discharged from the hospital, transferred to another service or when the student rotates off service, as part of the student’s medical education at P&S.

Sexual Misconduct and Romantic Relationships

  • Students must abstain from romantic involvement with patients or their family members while serving on a patient’s medical team, and abstain from romantic involvement with residents and faculty in positions of authority while serving in a student role.


  • Students must not refuse to participate in the care of a patient based on the patient’s race, religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, age, marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Students must not refuse to participate in the care of a patient solely because of medical risk, or perceived risk to the student.
  • Students retain the right of "conscience exemption" from performance of or participation in procedures or practices that violate their core moral, ethical and/or religious beliefs.
  • Patient care assignments for students with medical conditions placing them at undue risk will be addressed in an individualized manner.

Consultation and Supervision

  • Students must always be supervised in the clinical environment and seek additional supervision if they find themselves inadequately supervised because of lack of knowledge and/or insufficient experience.
  • Students are expected to recognize when they need additional consultation and supervision in the clinical setting and seek it accordingly.


  • Students must abstain from using any substance in a manner that could compromise patient care.
  • They must never use alcohol or drugs in public wearing clothing or ID that identifies them as student physicians.
  • It is the responsibility of every student to protect the public from an impaired colleague and to assist a colleague whose capability is impaired because of ill health. Students are thus obligated to report persons of the health care team whose behavior exhibits impairment or lack of professional conduct or competence or who engage in fraud or deception. Such reports must conform to established institutional policies.