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Code of Professional Conduct


The Duke University School of Medicine strives to create a community in which all faculty, staff, and learners cultivate a learning environment that is respectful and inclusive. Professionalism is a core component of all health professions. Health professionals are expected to demonstrate behavior that is responsible, accountable, self-directed, ethical, and professional. The community has a responsibility to support one another in achieving these standards of professionalism, recognize exemplars and to address lapses in professionalism.

Relevant Policies

Faculty, staff, and students must comply with all regulations regarding conduct established by Duke University, the School of Medicine, and the Health System. In addition, sites at which student rotate may have additional expectations, as may the student’s own program. These include at a minimum:

Statement of the Code of Professional Conduct

The Code of Professional Conduct is intended to promote expected behaviors and clarify the behaviors that are considered unacceptable. This code does not anticipate every potential offense, and unprofessional behavior not specifically mentioned in this code can still be subject to academic sanctions.

Expected Professional Behaviors (the following list provides representative examples and is not exhaustive)

  • Intellectual integrity and honesty

  • Kindness and Empathy

  • Maintenance of patient confidentiality

  • Respect for and Inclusion of people from all backgrounds

  • Concern for the welfare of others and respect for the rights of others

  • Prompt, responsive, and respectful interpersonal and electronic communication

  • Collaboration and Teamwork

  • Respectful and timely completion of administrative tasks (i.e. flu shots, request for personal time off, completion of assignments, and evaluations)

  • Adherence to program policies, including those related to attendance, professional dress and appearance, and social media

  • Respectful receipt, delivery and incorporation of feedback

  • Reporting witnessed violations of the code of professional conduct

Unacceptable Professional Behaviors (the following list provides representative examples and is not exhaustive)

  • Cheating

  • Lying, Stealing, and Plagiarism

  • Bullying and disrespectful behavior towards others

  • Breaching patient confidentiality

  • Misrepresenting one’s professional self

  • Acting outside one’s scope of practice

  • Fabricating or falsifying patient/research data

  • Being dismissive of or defensive about feedback

  • Acting without informed consent

  • Discriminating on the basis of group characteristics

  • Engaging in behaviors that would be considered sexual harassment

  • Engaging in romantic, sexual or other nonprofessional relationship with patient, patient’s family member, supervisor, supervisee, or faculty

  • Failing to adhere to principles of research integrity & ethics

  • Bribing others for personal gain

Scope of the Code of Professional Conduct

Professional behavior in the classroom, laboratory, clinical settings, and community, including online presence, is considered an essential element of academic performance and is necessary for promotion and ultimately, graduation/successful program completion. Society has high standards for the conduct of health professionals, and behavior outside of the academic setting may come to the attention of the school and impact progression.

In the health professions, professionalism is integral to academic success and cannot be separated from “academic” issues. Failure to adhere to behaviors consistent with these professional standards may jeopardize advancement and graduation. Lapses in professionalism can compromise future licensure and credentialing. Egregious professionalism lapses or a pattern of more minor professionalism issues may require reporting to future educational entities, licensing boards, credentialing organizations, and future employers.

The Code of Professional Conduct applies to a student while enrolled and after graduation in matters pertaining to certifying credentials, issuing transcripts, and verifying degrees that have been granted by the School of Medicine.

Civil and Criminal Charges/Offenses

The matriculating or current student should report the charge/offense against them (final or not) immediately but no later than 3 business days to the vice dean for education for the MD program and the program director for the MBS, DPT, OT, and PA programs.

If the student is charged with a felony or a misdemeanor that implicates the safety or well-being of our community or patients, they will be removed immediately from the course of study until/unless cleared of a criminal charge.

If the program determines that the behavior reported in a civil action could be detrimental to the safety or well-being of our community or patients, the school reserves the right to immediately remove the student from the learning environment.

Once the student reports the situation as outlined above a review will be conducted by the program director and vice dean for education. The outcome of this review will be conveyed to the student by program director and/or the vice dean for education. The student has 10 business days to appeal the decision to the dean.

School of Medicine Response to Lapses in Professionalism

Reports of lapses in professionalism will be managed by each individual program following their specific program policies and procedures located in handbook/bulletin. Specific incidents will be considered in the context in which they occur, their impact on others, the student’s response to feedback as well as the magnitude and pattern of lapses of professionalism.

Members of our community should report witnessed violations of the Code of Professional Conduct to a school official, via the various notification systems identified below. Students may initially report to their advisors and be directed to the official reporting options. Not reporting witnessed violations of the Code of Professional Conduct may also be construed as a lapse in professionalism. The following table compares reporting options.





Professionalism Notification System (preferred for professionalism issues)


Within professional school

Depends on Program

No Anonymity: Physician Assistant (PA); Up to Person Reporting: Physical Therapy (PT), Occupational Therapy (OT), Master of Biomedical Sciences (MBS), Doctor of Medicine (MD)

Adverse Event Reporting System


Within professional school


End of Course Evaluations (preferred for content about course)

Electronic, per individual programs

Within professional school

Depends on Program

No Anonymity: Physician Assistant (PA); Up to Person Reporting: Doctor of Medicine (MD)

SOM Ombudsperson

Email: or call office at (919) 668-3326

Initiated by phone call, email or meeting


Ombudsperson will know your identity, but will not share without your permission

Duke Office for Institutional Equity

For Types of Harassment and Discrimination (other types of reports may result in the school contacting OIE)

Initiated by phone call, email or meeting

Duke University

OIE will know your identity, case by case evaluation for severity and possible investigation which may compromise anonymity

Safety Reporting System (SRS)

Electronic on Pin Stations

Duke University Health System