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Eradicating Medical Student Mistreatment: A Longitudinal Study of One Institution’s Efforts

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Abstract

Purpose

Since 1995, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA (DGSOM) has created policies to prevent medical student mistreatment, instituted safe mechanisms for reporting mistreatment, provided resources for discussion and resolution, and educated faculty and residents. In this study, the authors examined the incidence, severity, and sources of perceived mistreatment over the 13-year period during which these measures were implemented.

Method

From 1996 to 2008, medical students at DGSOM completed an anonymous survey after their third-year clerkships and reported how often they experienced physical, verbal, sexual harassment, ethnic, and power mistreatment, and who committed it. The authors analyzed these data using descriptive statistics and the students’ descriptions of these incidents qualitatively, categorizing them as “mild,” “moderate,” or “severe.” They compared the data across four periods, delineated by milestone institutional measures to eradicate mistreatment.

Results

Of 2,151 eligible students, 1,946 (90%) completed the survey. More than half (1,166/1,946) experienced some form of mistreatment. Verbal and power mistreatment were most common, but 5% of students (104/1,930) reported physical mistreatment. The pattern of incidents categorized as “mild,” “moderate,” or “severe” remained across the four study periods. Students most frequently identified residents and clinical faculty as the sources of mistreatment.

Conclusions

Despite a multipronged approach at DGSOM across a 13-year period to eradicate medical student mistreatment, it persists. Aspects of the hidden curriculum may be undermining these efforts. Thus, eliminating mistreatment requires an aggressive approach both locally at the institution level and nationally across institutions.

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