Yesterday’s New York Times article, The Bullying Culture of Medical School, should shake up everyone involved in the struggle to curb bullying. 13 years ago UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine incorporated policies and prevention techniques to curb bullying. Surveys in the 90s showed that 85% of third year medical students believed they were being mistreated. UCLA’s effort to stop and prevent bullying was broad and encompassing.
U.C.L.A.’s experience is not isolated. In fact, national medical education surveys that include questions about mistreatment indicate that the environment at that school is about average. And the striking similarity of experiences across a generation of students suggests problems not just with one institution, but with the culture of medical training itself. “This is a national problem,” Ms. Fried said. “Our faculty and doctors-in-training come from all over, including schools where some of them might have been mistreated.”
After over a decade of a multi-pronged effort there was limited impact and a disturbing percentage of third year students still report experiencing abuse. Researchers argue “eliminating mistreatment requires an aggressive approach both locally at the institution level and nationally across institutions.” In other words, the entire culture needs to change.
For those of us seeking solutions for workplace bullying this should be a sobering wake up call. Hoping that legislation designed to nudge employers to enact policies and trainings with a “carrot and stick” approach is far too soft. It shouldn’t be about finding the bill that is palatable enough to pass. It should be about enacting bills or regulatory solutions that will be encompassing enough to create the change our culture needs.
…Ms. Fried and her colleagues continue to believe that medical student mistreatment can be significantly reduced — but only if all medical schools come together to work on the issue. “We’re talking about the really hard task of changing a culture, and that has to be done on a national level,” Ms. Fried said. Such an effort would include shared training programs, common policies regarding mistreatment and greater transparency about the mistreatment that currently exists in medical schools.
“There are a lot of really good people and role models out there,” Ms. Fried said. “But the culture for all these years has been to just take the mistreatment and not say anything.”
“It wasn’t right back then, and it shouldn’t be tolerated anymore,” she added.