Friday, August 10, 2012

Medical student bullying

And early studies found that abuse of medical students was most pronounced in the third year of medical school, when students began working one on one or in small teams with senior physicians and residents in the hospital. The first surveys found that as many as 85 percent of students felt they had been abused during their third year. They described mistreatment that ranged from being yelled at and told they were “worthless” or “the stupidest medical student,” to being threatened with bad grades or a ruined career and even getting hit, pushed or made the target of a thrown medical tool. ...

Starting in 1995, educators at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, began instituting a series of schoolwide reforms. They adopted policies to reduce abuse and promote prevention; established a Gender and Power Abuse Committee, mandated lectures, workshops and training sessions for students, residents and faculty members; and created an office to accept confidential reports, investigate and then address allegations of mistreatment.

To gauge the effectiveness of these initiatives, the school also began asking all students at the end of their third year to complete a five-question survey on whether they felt they had been mistreated over the course of the year.

The school has just published the sobering results of the surveys over the last 13 years. While there appears to have been a slight drop in the numbers of students who report experiencing mistreatment, more than half of all medical students still said that they had been intimidated or physically or verbally harassed.

Students described being yelled at, pushed and threatened. One student recounted being slapped on the hand by a more senior doctor who said, “If teaching doesn’t help you learn, then pain will.” Some students wrote about racial insults, with senior staff members making noises to mimic a foreign language; others reported being grabbed, asked out on a date or passed over because of their sex.

U.C.L.A.’s experience is not isolated. In fact, national medical education surveys that include questions about mistreatment indicate that the environment at that school is about average.
--Pauline Chen, NYT, on why your doctor might not be so nice