Objective: To survey the extent to which internal medicine housestaff experience abuse and discrimination in their training.
Design: Through a literature review and resident focus groups, we developed a self-administered questionnaire. In this cross-sectional survey, respondents were asked to record the frequency with which they experienced and witnessed different types of abuse and discrimination during residency training, using a 7-point Likert scale.
Participants: Internal medicine housestaff in Canada.
Measurements and main results: Of 543 residents in 13 programs participating (84% response rate), 35% were female. Psychological abuse, as reported by attending physicians (68%), patients (79%), and nurses or other health workers (77%), was widespread. Female residents experienced gender discrimination by attending physicians (70%), patients (88%), and nurses (71%); rates for males were 23%, 38%, and 35%, respectively. Females reported being sexually harassed more often than males, by attending physicians (35% vs 4%, p < .01), peers (30% vs 6%, p < .01), and patients (56% vs 18%, p < .01). Physical assault by patients was experienced by 40% of residents. Half of the residents surveyed reported racial discrimination and homophobic remarks in the workplace, perpetrated by all groups of health professionals.
Conclusions: Psychological abuse, gender discrimination, sexual harassment, physical abuse, homophobia, and racial discrimination are prevalent problems during residency training. Housestaff, medical educators, allied health workers, and the public need to work together to address these problems in the training environment.