'The program director's word … it's stronger than the word of God': Epistemic injustice revealed through narratives of remediated graduate medical education residents

Med Educ. 2024 Jul;58(7):848-857. doi: 10.1111/medu.15295. Epub 2023 Dec 22.


Background: Though graduate medical education (GME) residency training provides positive experiences for many trainees, it may also result in major stressors and negative experiences, particularly for those requiring remediation. Residents requiring remediation may experience feelings of dismay, shame and guilt that can negatively affect their training, self-efficacy and their medical careers. Power differentials between educators and residents may set the stage for epistemic injustice, which is injustice resulting from the silencing or dismissing a speaker based on identity prejudice. This can lead to decreased willingness of trainees to engage with learning. There is a paucity of literature that explores GME experiences of remediation from the resident perspective.

Objective: To synthesise the narratives of physician experiences of remediation during residency through the lens of epistemic injustice.

Methods: Between January and July 2022, we interviewed US physicians who self-identified as having experienced remediation during residency. They shared events that led to remediation, personal perspectives and emotions about the process and resulting outcomes. Interviews were analysed using narrative analysis with attention to instances of epistemic injustice.

Results: We interviewed 10 participants from diverse backgrounds, specialties and institutions. All participants described contextual factors that likely contributed to their remediation: (1) previous academic difficulty/nontraditional path into medicine, (2) medical disability or (3) minoritised race, gender or sexual identity. Participants felt that these backgrounds made them more vulnerable in their programmes despite attempts to express their needs. Participants reported instances of deflated credibility and epistemic injustices with important effects.

Conclusions: Participant narratives highlighted that deep power and epistemic imbalances between learners and educators can imperil GME trainees' psychological safety, resulting in instances of professional and personal harm. Our study suggests applying an existing framework to help programme directors (PDs) approach remediation with epistemic humility.

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical, Graduate*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Male
  • Narration
  • Physicians / psychology
  • Remedial Teaching