Perceived bullying during medical education may have negative consequences including compromised patient care and increased depression and burnout in affected residents, according to study results published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


Researchers evaluated results from a supplemental survey attached at the end of the Internal Medicine In-Training Examination completed by internal medicine residents in 2016. The survey, which is administered by the American College of Physicians, focused on bullying during residency, with bullying defined as “harassment that occurs repeatedly (>once) by an individual in a position of greater power.”

Residents were asked if they were ever bullied during their residency programs and to characterize the type of bullying (verbal, physical, sexual, or other) if bullying was perceived. Residents were also asked to disclose whether they suffered consequences as a result of the incidents and whether they sought help.

Assessment of the survey results revealed that of the internal medicine residents (N=26,021) who took the examination, 93% (n=24,104) completed the survey and 88% (n=21,212) allowed their surveys to be used for research purposes. Of these residents who allowed their surveys to be evaluated, 13.6% (n=2876) reported being bullied at some time during their residency programs. Of the residents who perceived bullying, 80% reported verbal harassment, 5.3% experienced physical harassment, 3.6% experienced sexual harassment, and 25% reported other forms of harassment. A total of 31% of residents who perceived bullying sought help to deal with it.

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