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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

25% of Medical women students experience sexual harassment

  • Most of the incidents referred to flirtations or sexual remarks.

  • The majority experienced 1 incident of sexual harassment, 6.7% reported 3 or more incidents.

  • The offenders were all male except in one case, 66% were patients the others were medical doctors or residents.

  • Three of 10 students reported that the incident had a negative influence on their functioning afterwards.

  • The majority (77.8%) discussed the incident with their peers, usually other medical students

  • Three quarters of the students were satisfied with the way the incident was dealt with

  • 13.3% experienced a lack of special support afterwards

Students from two medical schools in The Netherlands received a semi-structured questionnaire about their experience with sexual harassment during clerkship.
The questions were not only on the incidents but also on their reactions and the consequences for their wellbeing and professional functioning and the way the cases were handled.

The prevalence differed between the two medical schools but that was due to the fact that in one medical school the clerkship was of longer duration. They had longer clinical exposure to potential harassment.

In the international literature reports of sexual harassment fluctuate between 18-60%. The authors state that the incidence is relatively low in The Netherlands.They explain this by the observation that The Netherlands is considered one of the most feminine cultures in the world in which gender equality is more pervasive. I think the women outnumber the male students and soon the male doctors in The Netherlands. Since a lot of the female students nowadays are Muslim women (moslima's) it would be interesting to repeat this questionnaire soon and trace probable confounding factors such as religion.
The authors explanation that Dutch Women are more assertive seems to me speculative. See also this article on: Dutch women don't get depressed

In the commentary on this article it is written that there still seems to be an undercurrent of student harassment in medical schools in different countries and culture.
Individual schools must define their own norms of professionalbehaviour

There should be attention and education about this subject during medical education.
Rademakers, J.J., van den Muijsenbergh, M.E., Slappendel, G., Lagro-Janssen, A.L., Borleffs, J.C. (2008). Sexual harassment during clinical clerkships in Dutch medical schools. Medical Education, 42(5), 452-458. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2007.02935.x


Anonymous said...

So the majority of "sexual harassment" was flirting? Doesn't seem like a big problem.

jeff said...

I almost think I'd worry about a male patient not flirting with an attractive female medical worker... as long as it was clearly all in fun with nothing serious meant.

Dr. Shock said...

Well guys if these are "the flirtations" you mean that doesn't seem to be a problem:
"The patient repeatedly asked me whether we were going to have sex..."
"The patient asked for some extra attention from this "tasty woman.."
"The patient started touching my leg while I was taking a blood sample..."

Think again!
Regards Dr Shock

jeff said...

That's not what I would consider flirting.

Did the study (since I don't see a link to it) mention whether or not the recipients of the unwanted attention informed the person that this was not acceptable behavior - so please stop?

That's certainly not a response that would be unique to the medical field - all sexual harassment training indicates that you've got to tell the person that their behavior/attention is unwanted and to stop it.

Dr. Shock said...

The direct response is not mentioned in the article, the majority of students (77.8%) discussed the incident with others, usually peers. Three quarters of the students were satisfied with the way the incident was dealt with but the others were not. In their discussion the authors mention that a proper training for this kind of situations is necessary for both students and supervisors. I am not aware of such training in Med Schools in The Netherlands, is it in the US?

About links, research blogging uses the DOI of articles when provided, following the link after DOI at the bottom of the post you will be able to read the abstract.

Regards Dr Shock

Anonymous said...

"Most of the incidents referred to flirtations or sexual remarks."

Does having the women on an all-female (except for me) service constantly talking about their menstrual cycles count as sexual harrassment?