Mock Ethical Station 1
This station is 10 minutes in length. Please take 2 minutes to read through the scenario before and then answer the question below.
You are on your general practice placement with a friend. You are due to see patients today. You meet your friend outside the practice and you notice they look dishevelled and smell of alcohol. You know your friend went out to an event last night.
I am concerned about my colleague, their professionalism and patient safety.
This question can be successfully answered using the SPIES structure.
In this scenario you suspect your friend has been drinking heavily last night and is therefore hungover/still drunk. In addition, he appears dishevelled. Turning up to a placement looking dishevelled and smelling of alcohol is unprofessional. Before you go down the route of escalating the matter, you should have a conversation with your friend in private before entering the GP practice. It may be a misunderstanding i.e. the alcohol smell could be alcohol hand gel and your friend may look dishevelled because he was running late this morning or doesn’t know how to use an iron.
Whilst it is unlikely your friend will be making decisions regarding patients, there is a risk to patient trust in the profession. If you attended your General Practioner and their room smelt of alcohol you would be less inclined to trust them or listen to their advice.
You must ensure that you take steps to protect patients. These may include:
- Advising your friend to leave and go home
- Involve the General Practitioner you are due on placement with
In this scenario there are actions that you can undertake by yourself to resolve or help resolve the situation. Some steps that you could take would include:
- Making sure that your colleague makes it safely home. If they are still drunk they may require a taxi.
- Advise your friend to inform the General Practitioner that they will not be turning up today.
- Volunteering to take notes for your friend so they do not miss vital learning from the placement.
Your friend has turned up to placement, where you are scheduled to see patients, dishevelled and smelling of alcohol. His professionalism is questionable and he therefore poses a risk to patients. In addition, if he has developed or develops an alcohol addiction then he may also pose a risk to himself. You should discuss this with your friend and encourage him to escalate the matter to his educational supervisor. If he refuses and this is a pattern of behaviour then you should discuss the matter with your educational supervisor.
It is possible that this is a one-off situation where your friend got too drunk and has learnt his lesson. However, it is also possible that this is a pattern of a behaviour. Your friend may have an alcohol dependency issue or have roots in some kind of personal problem. You are this individuals friend and should therefore show them as much support as you can. It may be that you advise them to speak with their own General practitioner, educational supervisor or parents.