World Medical Association adopts statement on bullying and harassment within the profession

Issue: BCMJ, Vol. 60, No. 1, January, February 2018, page(s) 60 Pulsimeter

The World Medical Association (WMA) Statement on Bullying and Harassment within the Profession[1] was adopted at the WMA’s 68th General Assembly.

Medical student mistreatment ranges from verbal harassment and public humiliation to threats of limiting future career opportunities. In a national survey conducted by the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada in 2017, 59.6% of medical students in their final year reported being personally mistreated.[2] In 2016 the rate was 53%; in 2015 it was 50.6%.[3] Of students reporting mistreatment, 89.6% report mistreatment by faculty and 34.1% by residents.[3]

As evidenced in the WMA’s statement, mistreatment within the profession is also an issue internationally. Among US medical students, 42% reported having experienced harassment and 84% experienced belittlement during medical school.[4] These students were significantly more likely to be stressed, depressed, and suicidal; to drink alcohol or binge drink; and were significantly less likely to be glad they trained to become a doctor.[4]

Most Canadian medical students do not file a report when they experience instances of mistreatment. More than 80% of students who experienced mistreatment stated they had not reported it to their medical school or a designated faculty member.[3] Only 35.9% of students were satisfied with the outcome of having reported instances of mistreatment.[3]

Reasons cited by students for not reporting mistreatment included that “the incident did not seem important enough to report” (64.7%), “I did not think anything would be done about it” (47.1%), and “fear of reprisal” (35.3%).[3]

References Top

1.    World Medical Association. WMA statement on bullying and harassment within the profession. Last updated 14 October 2017.
2.    The Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada. Graduation questionnaire, national report 2017. Accessed 10 January 2018.
3.    The Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada. Graduation questionnaire, national report 2016. Accessed 10 January 2018.
4.    Frank E, Carrera JS, Stratton T, et al. Experiences of belittlement and harassment and their correlates among medical students in the United States: longitudinal survey. BMJ 2006;doi:10.1136/bmj.38924.722037.7C.