Experiences of belittlement and harassment and their correlates among medical students in the United States: Longitudinal survey

Erica Frank, Jennifer S. Carrera, Terry Stratton, Janet Bickel, Lois Margaret Nora

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

183 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine medical students' perceptions of having been harassed or belittled and their correlates, for the purposes of reducing such abuses. Design: Longitudinal survey. Setting: 16 nationally representative US medical schools. Participants 2884: students from class of 2003. Main outcome measures: Experiences of harassment and belittlement at freshman orientation, at entry to wards, and in senior year by other students, by residents or fellows, by preclinical professors, by clinical professors or attendings, or by patients. Results: 2316 students provided data (response rate 80.3%). Among seniors, 42% (581/1387) reported having experienced harassment and 84% (1166/1393) belittlement during medical school. These types of abuse were caused by other students (11% (158/1389) and 32% (443/1390) of students experienced such harassment or belittlement, respectively). Harassment and belittlement was also caused by residents (27% (374/1387) and 71% (993/1393)), preclinical professors (9% (131/1386) and 29% (398/1385)), clinical professors (21% (285/1386) and 63% (878/1390)), and patients (25% (352/1387) and 43% (592/1388)). Only 13% (181/1385) of students classified any of these experiences as severe. Medical students who reported having been harassed or belittled did not differ significantly from those not reporting such experiences by sex, ethnicity, political orientation, or religion. They did differ significantly by chosen specialty and were significantly more likely to be stressed, depressed, and suicidal, to drink alcohol or to binge drink, and to state that their faculty did not care about medical students. They were also significantly less likely to be glad they trained to become a doctor. Conclusion: Most medical students in the United States report having been harassed or belittled during their training. Although few students characterised the harassment or belittlement as severe, poor mental health and low career satisfaction were significantly correlated with these experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)682-684
Number of pages3
JournalThe BMJ
Issue number7570
StatePublished - Sep 30 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (all)


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