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  • Teaching by humiliation common in hospitals

    Author: AAP

A new survey has found that teaching by humiliation is rife in hospitals, leaving some medical students regretting their career choice.

Three-quarters of medical students are taught by humiliation in hospitals, but up to half of them think it's useful for learning, a new survey says.

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The humiliation included teachers being nasty, rude or hostile, and belittling their students, while more overt forms included yelling, shouting, cursing and swearing at them.

The anonymous survey of 146 students at the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne found 74 per cent had been humiliated during their adult and pediatric clinical rotations, and 83 per cent had witnessed it.

Subtle behaviours including aggressive and abusive questioning techniques were the most common form, said co-author Dr Karen Scott of the University of Sydney.

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"The students' responses to these practices ranged from disgust and regret about entering the medical profession to endorsement of teachers' public exposure of a student's poor knowledge," she said.

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They found up to half the students who had experienced or witnessed mistreatment considered it to be useful for learning and "the natural socialisation of a good doctor".

The survey, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, found medical or surgical teachers weren't the only culprits.

Nurses, midwives and administrative staff were commonly named as perpetrators.

"We note, too, the potential for negative effects on patients and families who witness abusive behaviour," the authors said.

They called for research to understand why the deeply ingrained practice persists, and for action to replace it with "a culture of compassion, tolerance and respect".

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

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