Discrimination, Abuse, and Harassment in Medical Training

A recent study (Y-Y Hu et al. NEJM 2019; 381: 1741-52) reported high rates of discrimination, abuse, and harassment based on a cross-sectional survey of general surgical residents (n=7409) in 2018.

Key findings:

  • 31.9% reported gender discrimination and 16.6% reported racial discrimination–with main source being patients/families
  • 30.3% reported verbal or physical abuse and 10.3% reported sexual harassment -with attending surgeons being the most frequent sources
  • Residents who experienced discrimination, abuse or harassment were more likely to have symptoms of burnout (OR 2.94) and suicidal thoughts (OR 3.07).  Overall, weekly burnout symptoms were noted in 38.5% of residents and 4.5% reported suicidal thoughts in previous year

The authors note that there were substantial numbers of programs with very low rates of mistreatment which indicates that improvement in training environment is feasible.

My take: This is a black eye for the entire healthcare field.  It is important to address these pervasive problems and to determine the rate of these issues in other areas of medicine.

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