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Med Teach. 2006 Mar;28(2):129-35.

The impact on students of adverse experiences during medical school.

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Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Otago, New Zealand.


This study aimed to determine the consequences for, and coping method used by, medical students who experienced adverse experiences during their training. A nationwide questionnaire based census of all current medical students in New Zealand. The response rate was 83% (1384/1660). Two-thirds of students had at least one adverse experience, with humiliation being the most common and having the greatest adverse impact. Unwanted sexual advances, unfair treatment on the basis of gender or race had a lesser impact for most students. Most students took several hours or several days to get over an adverse episode and most commonly they then avoided that person or department. Around one half sought help. Only one-quarter felt it motivated their learning while one-sixth felt it made them consider leaving medical school. The most common perpetrators were senior doctors or nurses. Unwanted sexual advances were most common from other students or from patients. Humiliation is the experience that affected students the most and had a significant adverse effect on learning. There is a disturbing rate of unacceptable practice within medical schools, not all of which is from doctors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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