Crying: experiences and attitudes of third-year medical students and interns

Teach Learn Med. 2009 Jul;21(3):180-7. doi: 10.1080/10401330903014111.


Background: The medical socialization process is emotionally stressful for trainees; anecdotally, crying is a frequent response.

Purposes: To understand the experiences and attitudes related to crying among 3rd-year medical students and interns.

Methods: Web-based survey distributed to all 3rd-year medical students and interns at two medical schools and affiliated internal medicine residency programs.

Results: Participation rates were 208/307 (68%) students and 93/126 (74%) interns. Sixty-nine percent of students and 74% of interns self-reported crying for reasons related to medicine. For both, the most common cause was "burnout." Although there were no significant differences in crying between students and interns (p =.38), twice as many women cried as men (93% vs. 44%, p <.001). Seventy-three percent of students and 68% of interns thought discussion of physicians' crying was inadequate.

Conclusions: Crying is common among medical students and interns, especially women. Many consider it unprofessional to cry in front of patients and colleagues. Trainees want more discussions of crying.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Crying / psychology*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine / education*
  • Internship and Residency
  • Male
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires