Sexual harassment in medical training

N Engl J Med. 1993 Feb 4;328(5):322-6. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199302043280507.


Background: Sexual harassment has become a national concern and one that is increasingly recognized in the field of medicine. Although there are reports of the sexual harassment of medical trainees, there is little information on the prevalence of this problem and whether it is adequately addressed by training institutions.

Methods: Surveys with descriptions and examples of sexual harassment were mailed to 133 internal medicine residents in a university training program. The residents were asked to report anonymously whether they had encountered sexual harassment during medical school or residency, the frequency and type of harassment, its effect on them, whether they chose to report it to a person in authority, and the factors that influenced this decision.

Results: Surveys were returned by 82 residents (response rate, 62 percent), 33 women and 49 men. Twenty-four women (73 percent) and 11 men (22 percent) reported that they had been sexually harassed at least once during their training. The women were more likely than the men to have been physically harassed, and the women's harassers were of higher professional status. Among those harassed, 19 of the women (79 percent) and 5 of the men (45 percent) thought that the experience created a hostile environment or interfered with their performance at work, but only 2 women and no men reported their experiences to an authority. The women cited a lack of confidence that they would be helped as the main reason for not reporting the experience, whereas men most commonly said that they had dealt with the problem without the need for outside assistance.

Conclusions: Many medical trainees encounter what they believe to be sexual harassment during medical school or residency, and this often creates a hostile learning and work environment. Training institutions need to address the adverse effects this may have on medical education and patient care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / statistics & numerical data*
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Male
  • Physicians, Women
  • Power, Psychological
  • San Francisco
  • Sexual Harassment / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Sexual Harassment / psychology
  • Sexual Harassment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Environment
  • Students, Medical*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires