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Mistreatment of Dalhousie medical residents common and underreported, study finds | News from Radio-Canada

A new one published peer-reviewed study found that mistreatment of medical residents in the Maritimes remains common and underreported.

From October to November 2021, the 645 medical residents associated with Dalhousie University were asked to answer questions about their work experiences since graduation. Residents are medical school graduates who are training in a specialty or in family medicine.

Nineteen percent responded, including residents working in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

Twenty percent of them said they had sometimes experienced mistreatment – ​​defined as behavior that disrespects the dignity of others and that harms learning – since the start of their residency. About eight percent said it happened very often or almost daily. About one in five respondents said they had never been abused.

Qëndresa Sahiti, a fourth-year medical student and lead author of the study, said the problem can also affect the broader community. “Research has shown that when our doctors are well, our patients are well,” she said.

Sahiti said another takeaway is that residents are very interested in helping improve their learning environment.

Dr. Patrick Holland is a fourth-year medical resident seeking to become an oncologist, or cancer specialist, in the Dalhousie University medical program. (Andrew Lam/CBC)

Dr. Patrick Holland, a fourth-year oncology resident, said he was a victim of mistreatment and that the hierarchical nature of the medical system was a contributing factor.

“Anytime there is a power differential between people, there is always the possibility of it being abused,” said Holland, who is also president of the advocacy group Maritime Resident Physicians.

He added that the likelihood of mistreatment can also vary depending on where residents work. For example, decisions often need to be made quickly in emergency departments and operating rooms where patients are very ill. This can make these environments more emotionally charged.

Holland emphasized that residents occupy a unique position in the medical hierarchy, both as learners and as people who can practice medicine under supervision.

A man with short hair, crossed arms and a neutral expression.  He wears a collared shirt and stands in front of a door decorated with stained glass.
Dr. David Bowes is Associate Dean of Postgraduate Medical Education at Dalhousie University. (Andrew Lam/CBC)

The study found that when mistreatment occurs, many do not report the incidents due to confidentiality concerns and fear of retaliation.

Residents can accumulate tens of thousands of dollars in debt over their eight years of study. Because of this, “they have very little incentive to shake things up and jeopardize their educational opportunities and… their future careers,” Sahiti said.

Dr. David Bowes, an assistant dean who helps manage medical residency programs at Dalhousie University, said the school has taken steps to improve accountability of those involved in training doctors. The Faculty of Medicine spear A professional affairs office in December 2022 which acts on reports of mistreatment.

Bowes, co-author of the paper, said people reporting incidents can now do so anonymously, if they wish, through a communications program allowing them to speak with people in the professional affairs office.

“Depending on the nature of the incident, people may want it handled in different ways,” he said.

Some cases may fall under the jurisdiction of health authorities rather than Dalhousie University. There are therefore different ways of handling a report depending on the person involved.

This includes the university’s ability to remove a faculty member from teaching. Bowes said, “We view the ability to teach residents as not a right, but…a privilege. »

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