Medical Student Misconduct: Falsifying Clinical Hours

Everyone knows the enormous challenges of medical school. Few, though, truly appreciate how extraordinary those challenges can be, other than the medical students who actually endure them. Early in the medical program, the challenges can be primarily intellectual as students absorb a vast and highly technical knowledge base. But pretty soon, at least by the third and fourth years, medical students are also on their feet and up to their elbows in clinical courses. Clinical courses may seem from the outside to be a sort of welcome break from book learning. But book learning, specifically medical exam preparation, unquestionably continues through the latter stages of medical school. And so, medical students must keep studying while simultaneously completing, and documenting completion of, abundant clinical hours. For some medical students, that's when allegations can arise that the student did not complete the required hours. And sometimes, those allegations can lead to medical school charges of misconduct for falsifying clinical hours. If you face your medical school's allegation that you falsified clinical hours or other allegations of medical student misconduct, retain national medical student discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm to help you defend and defeat those charges. Don't let false or unfair misconduct charges threaten or even ruin your medical education.

Falsifying Pre-Med Clinical Hours

Medical students know about clinical hours even before entering medical school. As the Association of American Medical Colleges acknowledges in advice on pre-med clinical hours, medical schools favor applicants who show empathy, service orientation, responsibility to others, and familiarity with medical practice through fifty or more clinical hours. Indeed, advisors may suggest that an applicant log one hundred hours or more. The AAMC suggests that if busy pre-med students don't have the time to shadow a physician, they build those clinical hours through hospice volunteering, caretaking, and other ways until they can exceed the recommended minimum number of hours on their medical school application. Of course, misrepresenting pre-med clinical hours on one's medical school application is sanctionable misconduct of a different sort than falsifying clinical hours in a clinical course. Medical schools typically reserve the right to rescind not only the offer of admission and to revoke a student's enrollment but even to rescind a graduate's medical degree for false applications. See, for instance, Harvard Medical School's Student Handbook policy on false applications. But the point is that medical students generally know from the start the significance to their educational program of clinical hours requirements.

Medical School Clinical Hours Requirements

Clinical hours requirements are, indeed, a serious medical school business. The AAMC Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) publishes standards that medical schools must meet for accreditation purposes. Those standards require a medical school not only to have clinical courses but also to ensure that the school reliably documents each student's completion of clinical coursework. LCME Standard 8.6, titled Monitoring of Completion of Required Clinical Experiences, requires that “[a] medical school has in place a system with central oversight that monitors and ensures completion by all medical students of required clinical experiences in the medical education program and remedies any identified gaps.” The University of California, Riverside School of Medicine, for example, cites all LCME Standards, including LCME Standard 8.6, on documenting clinical course requirements. To fulfill that standard, UC Riverside School of Medicine then requires in its student handbook that every student log their clinical work hours. Medical schools aren't going to lose their accreditation with sloppy administration of critical clinical coursework. Medical schools instead document their clinical files with student statements of their clinical hours. That's why you must accurately document your clinical hours, to prove to accreditors and the school itself that you are meeting standards ensuring that you receive the clinical training necessary to practice medicine competently.

When Falsified Hours Perils Arise

Medical students tend to run afoul of clinical hours requirements in their third or fourth years of medical school. As every medical student knows or soon discovers, medical schools typically concentrate clinical courses in the third and fourth years of the medical program. The University of Michigan Medical School, for instance, has an intense clinical focus, including core required ICU and non-ICU sub-internships and an emergency medicine rotation, plus four four-week clinical electives and additional two-week electives. At Michigan Medicine, each clinical course has some hours requirement or other time requirements, as the school's materials state. Even though those time requirements vary from course to course and branch to branch, students in those courses must complete the time requirements. But of course, medical school is no picnic. When online studies, classroom studies, exam preparation, and other unavoidable obligations impose ever greater demands on an exhausted third-year or fourth-year medical student, clinical hours can suffer. Temptations may then arise not to accurately document hours, instead to overstate hours, or perhaps to let others incorrectly assume completion of hours. Medical school is a continual test not only of mental and physical powers and study habits and disciplines but also of character.

Is Falsifying Clinical Hours Academic Dishonesty?

Likely yes, depending on your medical school's definition of academic dishonesty. Medical schools, like other college and university programs, tend to define academic dishonesty in their student conduct codes both by broad definition and narrow example. Falsifying clinical hours may not meet your medical school's narrow examples. The examples of academic dishonesty that your medical school gives in its student conduct code may, like Emory University School of Medicine's Code of Honor, instead include only the traditional forms of academic dishonesty like cheating, plagiarism, and falsifying research data. Yet your medical school's code very probably also includes, again, like Emory University School of Medicine's Code of Honor, a broad definition that would encompass falsifying clinical hours. Before listing the traditional examples, Emory School of Medicine's broad definition of academic dishonesty, for instance, states, “Any action indicating lack of integrity and/or dishonesty in academic matters is considered a violation of academic ethics.” Clinical hours are clearly an academic matter. By definition, falsifying hours is a matter of dishonesty.

Defending Medical School Falsified Clinical Hours Charges

You can try arguing that falsifying clinical hours did not violate your medical school's student code of conduct, honor code, or other definition of academic dishonesty. But your individual circumstances probably give you better defenses than a technical argument about definitions of cheating. Most medical students don't just wake up one morning having decided to cheat on clinical hours. When medical students or students in other professional programs requiring clinical hours face allegations that they falsely misrepresented clinical hours, the student could instead be innocent. Circumstances may have arisen casting suspicion on the student that the student could, in time, correct or rebut with an appropriate explanation or presentation. If you face one of the following excusing circumstances or other similar circumstances, retain national medical student discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to help you establish your innocence:

  • The student may believe, correctly, that the student has completed the required clinical hours, but course administrators may not have correctly credited the student for those hours
  • The student may believe, correctly, that the student has completed the required clinical hours, but the student or student's clinical supervisor may not have correctly entered the clinical hours
  • The student may believe honestly, though incorrectly, that the student has completed the required hours so that any statement by the student is an innocent mistake rather than deliberate falsification
  • The student may know or suspect that the student has not yet completed the required clinical hours but may have, with supervisor or administrator consent, still expect to do so to ensure the record's integrity
  • The student may not know whether the student has completed the required clinical hours but may not have made any affirmative representation, whether accurate or inaccurate, as to hours others recorded

Medical School Procedures for Falsified Hours Charges

Medical schools maintain procedures their disciplinary officials will follow to determine academic or other misconduct charges. Those procedures tend to offer due process protections, even if limited protections compared to formal court procedures. Harvard Medical School's Policies and Procedures for Unprofessional Conduct are an example. Harvard Medical School applies those procedures to all forms of allegations other than Title IX sexual misconduct. So, a student facing a charge of academic dishonesty for falsifying clinical hours would get the benefit of Harvard Medical School's conduct procedures. Those procedures, typical of other medical schools and other college and university programs, bring misconduct complaints before the Medical School's Promotion and Review Board. If the Board finds that the complaint describes potential misconduct, the Board designates a fact finder to interview the accused student and witnesses and prepare a written report. The accused student gets to read and comment on the report before the Board decides on a course of action, including sanctions. The Board may also interview the student. These are the kinds of formal disciplinary procedures that you and your retained medical student discipline defense attorney advisor must strategically deploy for your effective and successful defense.

Medical School Review Board Appeal

Appeals from an adverse decision imposing sanctions, right up to suspension or even expulsion, are a common feature of medical school misconduct procedures. Harvard Medical School's above Policies and Procedures for Unprofessional Conduct and similar procedures at other medical schools like the University of Washington School of Medicine offer appeals. An appeal takes the sanction decision before another school official for a second review. In the University of Washington School of Medicine's case, that second review is by a Student Progress Committee. Appeals may have to show grounds beyond disagreement with the original decision, such as a procedural irregularity, bias or a conflict of interest on the part of a disciplinary official or newly discovered evidence. Appeals, though, can set straight significant errors that affected the original proceeding, reversing the sanction to preserve the student's medical education. Falsified clinical hours charges can be so contextual to the clinical program and the accused student's individual circumstances and experience that school procedural errors can easily affect the outcome. A strong appeal could save the day.

Your Retained Medical Student Defense Advisor's Role

You should recognize from the above description of medical school procedures for addressing student misconduct complaints, including complaints of falsified clinical hours, that a skilled and experienced medical student discipline defense attorney advisor can play a critical role in a successful defense. Your retained attorney advisor can help you gather, organize, evaluate, and present exonerating and mitigating evidence. That initial work can carry the day in defending and defeating the original charge at an early stage during initial fact-finding. Your retained attorney advisor can also help you communicate and advocate effectively with not only the fact-finder but also the initial review board, again for a favorable outcome. Your retained attorney advisor, if appropriately skilled and experienced, can also help you pursue an effective appeal of any adverse result. If you face falsified clinical hours charges, retain national medical student discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento for all of his considerable skill in these areas.

Seek Alternative Available Relief If All Else Fails

Indeed, even if you have exhausted all formal avenues for relief on falsified clinical hours charges, retain national medical student discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento to pursue oversight relief. Medical schools maintain general counsel offices, ombuds offices, and similar oversight bodies to ensure lawful and fair treatment of individual students in special circumstances. Drawing on his national network and reputation earned in handling hundreds of student misconduct cases, attorney advisor Lento has helped many students gain favorable relief, including reinstatement to pursue and complete their degree, even after having lost in all formal channels. Don't give up on your medical education, and don't retain an unqualified local criminal defense attorney for your medical school administrative proceeding. Instead, consult and retain the best available medical student discipline defense attorney advisor.

Premier Medical Student Discipline Defense Available

If you face academic discipline alleging that you falsified clinical hours, or other allegations of medical student misconduct, retain national medical student discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm. Attorney advisor Lento has successfully defended hundreds of students nationwide against school misconduct charges. Call 888.535.3686 or go online now.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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