New Study Documents High Levels of Mistreatment of Women Surgical Residents

A new study led by researchers at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University finds that women surgical residents suffer more mistreatment than men, which leads to a higher burnout rate and more suicidal thoughts among female residents.

Among the key findings of the study are:

  • More than 50 percent of all general surgery residents reported some form of mistreatment.
  • 65 percent of women reported gender discrimination
  • 20 percent of women reported sexual harassment
  • 5.3 percent of women surgical residents had suicidal thoughts in the last year

The study reports that sexual harassment, verbal/physical abuse and pregnancy/childcare discrimination primarily came from the attending surgeons and other residents. Gender discrimination came mostly from patients and their families, the survey showed. Patients frequently mistook the female physician for a nurse. Or patients thought the female physician wasn’t qualified enough and wanted to see a male resident or student, the researchers found.

Karl Bilimoria, the John B. Murphy Professor of Surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and senior author of the study, stated that “I’m struck by the frequency of this mistreatment and how much of an impact it has on resident burnout. This is detrimental to the development of emotionally healthy surgeons who function effectively. We need them to get the best training to become great doctors. Clearly, there is a tremendous need to improve the learning environment to protect the well-being of our trainees.”

The full study, “Discrimination, Abuse, Harassment, and Burnout in Surgical Residency Training,” was published on the website of the New England Journal of Medicine. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/StudySexual Assault/Harassment


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