Independent journalism about VU Amsterdam | Since 1953
22 February 2024

Student Life
& Society

Half of doctors and medical students have experienced transgressive behaviour

In a recent survey, half of doctors and medical students reported having experienced transgressive behaviour. Most of the victims are women, and surgeons are the most common perpetrators.

The inappropriate behaviour may take the form of shouting, jokes in poor taste, sexual harassment or exclusion. At least half of the doctors and medical students who responded told the medical journal Medisch Contact that they had experienced behaviour of this kind.

The journal sent out a questionnaire to 57,000 doctors and medical students last September. Intimidation and abuse of power (31 percent) are the most common problems, according to the more than 6,500 respondents. They also reported experiencing sexual harassment (29 percent), discrimination and racism (18 percent) as well as bullying (15 per cent).

Consequences

While they often do nothing about inappropriate behaviour when first confronted with it, over half of the victims find that it later has far-reaching consequences for their mental wellbeing or even their careers.

Victims of bullying in particular said that this frequently left them with mental health and physical problems. They were also more likely to lose their jobs or look for other work themselves.

Much of what the doctors and students report concerns old issues, in some cases from five or more years ago. It is impossible to tell from the figures whether things have improved or worsened over the years.

Touching

The victims of sexually transgressive behaviour are often the butt of jokes and comments, although half of them have also experienced unwanted touching.

Women are more likely than men to be victims, especially of sexual harassment. In a parallel manner, they also mostly point to men as the perpetrators. Often, managers or teaching staff are behind the inappropriate behaviour.

When also asked by Medisch Contact which specialists were the worst offenders, the respondents replied that surgeons were by far the most common perpetrators. In all the categories covered in the questionnaire, surgeons were identified as the perpetrators in 30 to 40 percent of cases.

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