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‘Teaching by humiliation’ experienced by two thirds of medical students

'Teaching by humiliation' experienced by two thirds of medical students - Featured Image

A study has found that 74% of university medical students had been humiliated by their teachers during clinical rotations. 83% of students witnessed their peers being humiliated.

The research, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, featured an anonymous survey of 146 University of Sydney and University of Melbourne students.

According to the report, students considered humiliation to be teachers being nasty, rude or hostile, and when they belittled students. Less common behaviours were teachers yelling, shouting, cursing and swearing at students.

Some students were disgusted by the practice of teaching by humiliation, one writing: “The culture of bastardisation in the medical profession has to stop. Had I known it was like this, I never would have given up a good job that I loved to do medicine.”

Others, however, felt it was necessary for learning in the medical profession, with up to half of the survey responses saying teaching by humiliation was ‘useful to learning’.

“It is ‘humiliating’ to be put on the spot and have your knowledge and understanding tested publicly, but I find it to be a fantastic way to learn and consolidate. Rudeness and insults, however, should have no place in this method,” one student wrote.

Related: Changing education model key to stamping out bullying in medicine

Dr Karen Scott, Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney, and her coauthors reported that it wasn’t just medical or surgery teachers being rude to students.

“The specific professional group most frequently named was nursing and midwifery, reported by 59% of University of Melbourne students and 35% of University of Sydney students. Administrative staff were also named”, the authors wrote.

The report concludes that there needs to be long term research and action to understand the complexity of the situation and identify ways to shift the culture.

“At the same time, current and future teachers deserve meaningful, ongoing support and professional development, and students deserve support to be assertive and resilient.”

Read the full report online at the Medical Journal of Australia.

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