Almost 17 percent of medical students are exposed to transgressive behaviour during their medical internships – mainly in the form of verbal abuse and intimidation (30 percent). Based on survey results, De Geneeskundestudent, the Dutch interest group for medical students, reports that almost one-fifth of medical students are the victims of sexual assault as well.
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More than 2,800 medical students took part in the survey above. Of the respondents, 1,257 were interns, and 80 percent were female. One-tenth of the total had experienced transgressive behaviour.
Medical specialists are identified as the instigators most often (37 percent). Patients and their family members sometimes misbehave too: one-fifth of all cases involve these ‘external sources’. More than three-quarters of incidents are not reported officially.
Interns are afraid to speak out, says Pim den Boom, chair of De Geneeskundestudent. “When doing an internship, they are based in a particular hospital department for a number of weeks and are reliant on the goodwill of the medical specialists they are working with. They are assessed by them too.”
Breaking the taboo
Den Boom believes that medical specialists should call each other to account for their behaviour. “This will enable us to break the taboo and make it easier for interns to report transgressive behaviour. The behaviour of patients and their family members must be open to discussion as well. It would be good to have reporting centres in all the faculties and hospitals.”
Last week, an internal specialist was struck off the medical register for touching the genital areas of female interns and filming them while they were undressed. This was the first time the disciplinary board had dealt with complaints about a doctor from interns.