Professional Behaviour and the Postgraduate Surgical Curriculum

The importance of maintaining a safe and supportive working environment is emphasised by the syllabus content of all sub-specialty surgical curricula. It is expected that as leaders of the surgical team, the highest standards of behaviour should be maintained by all surgeons, both for the wellbeing and support of colleagues and to ensure the highest quality patient care.

Curricula clearly define the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours that should be maintained throughout a surgical career. Accordingly, they have clear relevance to all surgeons, not just to those in training.

Whilst all sub-specialty curricula have different clinical components, there is uniformity in the standards of professional behaviour. Relevant examples include:

Good Clinical Care


To understand that patient safety depends on:

  • The effective and efficient organisation of care
  • Health care staff working well together
  • Safe systems, individual competency and safe practice


  • Remains calm in stressful or high pressure situations and adopts a timely, rational approach
  • Encourages feedback from all members of the team on safety issues
  • Continues to be aware of one's own limitations, and operates within them
  • Shows respect and behaves in accordance with Good Medical Practice

Probity and Ethics


  • To recognise, analyse and know how to deal with unprofessional behaviours in clinical practice, taking into account local and national regulations
  • To create open and non-discriminatory professional working relationships with colleagues, awareness of the need to prevent bullying and harassment
  • To act as a positive role model in all aspects of communication
  • To recognise and respond to the causes of medical error
  • To understand ethical obligations to patients and colleagues

Self Awareness and Self Management


  • To identify one’s own strengths, limitations and the impact of their behaviour
  • To identify their own emotions and prejudices and understand how these can affect their judgement and behaviour
  • To manage the impact of emotions on behaviour and actions
  • Demonstrate knowledge of ways in which individual behaviours impact on others
  • Demonstrate knowledge of tools and techniques for managing stress
  • Demonstrate knowledge of techniques to facilitate and resolve conflict
  • Demonstrate the ability to recognise the manifestations of stress on self and others and know where and when to look for support

Principles of Quality and Safety Improvement


To recognise the desirability of monitoring performance, learning from mistakes and adopting a no blame culture in order to ensure high standards of care and optimise patient safety


  • Participates in safety improvement strategies such as critical incident reporting
  • Develops reflection in order to achieve insight into own professional practice
  • Demonstrates personal commitment to improve own performance in the light of feedback and assessment
  • Engages with an open no blame culture
  • Responds positively to outcomes of audit and quality improvement
  • Co-operates with changes necessary to improve service quality and safety

Communication with Colleagues


To recognise and accept the responsibilities and role of the doctor in relation to other healthcare professionals.


Fosters an environment that supports open and transparent communication between team members


Prevents and resolves conflict and enhances collaboration

Promoting Good Health


Shows willingness to maintain a close working relationship with other members of the multi-disciplinary team, primary and community care.

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