3.4: Definition of Medical Student Practice Role

The Medical Board of California requests that medical students be carefully instructed about what they may and may not do in terms of writing orders or prescriptions for patients. Thus, Educational Programs and Services, in collaboration with the clinical department chairs, Stanford-affiliated hospitals, and nursing offices, has prepared the following description of the appropriate role of the Stanford medical student on a patient care team.

California state law allows specific exceptions for medical students to the general code, which requires that all medical acts must be performed by licensed physicians. The exception specifies that a student may do all things that a physician may do with the following provisos:

  1. That any medically-related activity performed by students be part of the course of study of an approved medical school; and
  2. That any medically-related activity performed by students be under the proper direction and supervision of the faculty of an approved medical school.
  3. Where clinically and educationally appropriate, physicians who are supervising medical students may delegate responsibility for some elements of teaching and supervision to non-physician care providers, e.g. allied health professionals, nurses, respiratory therapists, etc., within the institution.  It will be the responsibility of each supervising physician to determine which learning experiences are appropriately delegated in this manner and to ensure that non-physicians providing such supervision are working within their scope of practice.  

Medical students may therefore write orders for drugs, treatments, etc., provided that:

  1. the provisions of number 2 above are observed;
  2. the students are assigned to or are consultants to the service on which the order pertains; and
  3. a licensed physician countersigns all orders before the orders are executed. Telephone orders of counter-signatures will be accepted from licensed physicians (including licensed housestaff). Medical students may locate and solicit the licensed physician’s verification by telephone, but the licensed physician must speak directly to the registered nurse and must actually sign the order before going off duty. The counter-signature is recorded as a telephone order. Routine admission orders are not exempted from the above provisions.

Medical students acting as subinterns, are still subject to the above provisions.

Medical students will identify their signatures with CC (Clinical Clerk) or MS (Medical Student), just as licensed physicians identify their signatures with MD. Medical students will also wear badges identifying them as medical students.

Medical students are not to be involved in any portion of the medical care of other medical students.


updated August 2020