Abusive Behavior Common in U.S. Medical Schools

Belittlement and harassment of students linked to depression, dissatisfaction with career choice

THURSDAY, Sept. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Most U.S. medical students endure belittlement and harassment during their schooling, most commonly from residents, clinical professors and patients. Although such treatment is usually not severe, it may increase students' risk of stress, depression, suicidality, alcohol abuse and low career satisfaction, according to a study published online Sept. 6 in BMJ.

Erica Frank, M.D., of the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, and colleagues surveyed 2,884 students at 16 U.S. medical schools during their freshman orientation, entry to wards and senior year.

The researchers found that 84 percent of seniors experienced belittlement and 42 percent experienced harassment. Seventy-one percent of the seniors reported that they had been belittled by residents while 63 percent cited clinical professors and 43 percent cited patients. Twenty-seven percent of the seniors reported that they had been harassed by residents while 25 percent cited patients and 21 percent cited clinical professors.

"If the medical profession is serious about creating a satisfied workforce and about teaching students to behave ethically with colleagues and patients, we ourselves must behave in an ethically appropriate and sensitive way," the authors conclude. "This problem seems to be widespread in both the United States and some other countries, to not have significantly diminished in the United States despite considerable attention and to warrant further attention."

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