Objective: This study determined the risk of discipline by a medical board for psychiatrists relative to other physicians and assessed the contributions to such risk.
Method: Physicians disciplined by the California Medical Board in a 30-month period were compared with matched groups of nondisciplined physicians.
Results: Among 584 disciplined physicians, there were 75 (12.8%) psychiatrists, nearly twice the number of psychiatrists among nondisciplined physicians. Female psychiatrists were underrepresented in the disciplined group. Psychiatrists were significantly more likely than nonpsychiatrist physicians to be disciplined for sexual relationships with patients and about as likely to be charged with negligence or incompetence. The disciplined and nondisciplined psychiatrists did not differ significantly from a group of 75 nondisciplined psychiatrists on years since medical school graduation, international medical graduate status, or board certification. The disciplined group included significantly more psychiatrists who claimed child psychiatry as their first or second specialty and significantly fewer psychoanalysts.
Conclusions: Organized psychiatry has an obligation to address sexual contact with patients and other causes for medical board discipline. This obligation may be addressable through enhanced residency training, recertification exams, and other means of education.