Background: Despite there being considerable literature documenting learner distress and perceptions of mistreatment in medical education settings, these concerns have not been explored in-depth in Canadian family medicine residency programs. The purpose of the study was to examine intimidation, harassment and/or discrimination (IHD) as reported by Alberta family medicine graduates during their two-year residency program.
Methods: A retrospective questionnaire survey was conducted of all (n = 377) family medicine graduates from the University of Alberta and University of Calgary who completed residency training during 2001-2005. The frequency, type, source, and perceived basis of IHD were examined by gender, age, and Canadian vs international medical graduate. Descriptive data analysis (frequency, crosstabs), Chi-square, Fisher's Exact test, analysis of variance, and logistic regression were used as appropriate.
Results: Of 377 graduates, 242 (64.2%) responded to the survey, with 44.7% reporting they had experienced IHD while a resident. The most frequent type of IHD experienced was in the form of inappropriate verbal comments (94.3%), followed by work as punishment (27.6%). The main sources of IHD were specialist physicians (77.1%), hospital nurses (54.3%), specialty residents (45.7%), and patients (35.2%). The primary basis for IHD was perceived to be gender (26.7%), followed by ethnicity (16.2%), and culture (9.5%). A significantly greater proportion of males (38.6%) than females (20.0%) experienced IHD in the form of work as punishment. While a similar proportion of Canadian (46.1%) and international medical graduates (IMGs) (41.0%) experienced IHD, a significantly greater proportion of IMGs perceived ethnicity, culture, or language to be the basis of IHD.
Conclusions: Perceptions of IHD are prevalent among family medicine graduates. Residency programs should explicitly recognize and robustly address all IHD concerns.