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CMAJ. 1996 Jun 1;154(11):1657-65.

Residents' experiences of abuse, discrimination and sexual harassment during residency training. McMaster University Residency Training Programs.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, McMaster University Faculty of Health Sciences, Hamilton, Ont.



To assess the prevalence of psychological abuse, physical assault, and discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, and to examine the prevalence and impact of sexual harassment in residency training programs.


Self-administered questionnaire.


McMaster University, Hamilton, Ont.


Residents in seven residency training programs during the academic year from July 1993 to June 1994. Of 225 residents 186 (82.7%) returned a completed questionnaire, and 50% of the respondents were women.


Prevalence of psychological abuse, physical assault and discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation experienced by residents during medical training, prevalence and residents' perceived frequency of sexual harassment.


Psychological abuse was reported by 50% of the residents. Some of the respondents reported physical assault, mostly by patients and their family members (14.7% reported assaults by male patients and family members, 9.8% reported assaults by female patients and family members), 5.4% of the female respondents reported assault by male supervising physicians. Discrimination on the basis of gender was reported to be common and was experienced significantly more often by female residents than by male residents (p < 0.01). Ten respondents, all female, reported having experienced discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation. Most of the respondents experienced sexual harassment, especially in the form of sexist jokes, flirtation and unwanted compliments on their dress or figure. On average, 40% of the respondents, especially women (p < 0.01), reported experiencing offensive body language and receiving sexist teaching material and unwanted compliments on their dress. Significantly more female respondents than male respondents stated that they had reported events of sexual harassment to someone (p < 0.001). The most frequent emotional reactions to sexual harassment were embarassment (reported by 24.0%), anger (by 23.4%) and frustration (20.8%).


Psychological abuse, discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual harassment are commonly experienced by residents in training programs. A direct, progressive, multidisciplinary approach is needed to label and address these problems.

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