Sexual harassment during medical training: the perceptions of medical students at a university medical school in Australia

Med Educ. 2000 Dec;34(12):980-6. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2923.2000.00684.x.


Context: A survey of medical students' experiences of sexual harassment during medical training.

Objective: To assess the prevalence and nature of workplace sexual harassment as perceived by undergraduate medical students in order to address their learning needs concerning setting and maintaining sexual boundaries.

Design: A questionnaire involving both quantitative and qualitative descriptions.

Setting: A university medical school in Australia.

Participants: The medical student population.

Main outcome measures: Estimated prevalence of sexual harassment according to gender and year of training; frequency of sexual harassment reported by category of behaviour, year of training and gender; type of sexual harassment and alleged harasser reported by gender; frequency of sexual harassment reported by category of behaviour and alleged harasser.

Results: Female students encountered an unacceptable amount of sexual harassment in medical training from fellow students, patients, faculty and doctors they worked with, which was perceived as affecting learning opportunities.

Conclusion: Genderized sexual harassment exists in medical training. While both male and female students report episodes perceived as sexual harassment a difference in interpretation results in greater vulnerability for female students. Medical educators need to address issues of gender, sexual harassment, and the setting and maintaining of sexual boundaries in order to avoid a hostile learning environment.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Data Collection
  • Education, Medical, Graduate*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Perception
  • Sexual Harassment*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires