NZ Medical students survey reveals bullying and sexual harrassment issues

Senior Doctors in New Zealand have been called on to show leadership and work to build a culture with no tolerance for bullying or harassment.

This follows the release of a survey of over 300 New Zealand medical students which revealed that over 52% of those surveyed had experienced bullying or sexual harassment in the last year.

The survey conducted by the New Zealand Medical Students’ Association (NZMSA) identified that the behaviour was most commonly carried out by senior doctors.

NZMSA President Elizabeth Berryman says she is not surprised by the findings.

“It is unacceptable that bullying is so rife in our hospitals and disturbing that some senior clinicians are the most persistent offenders.”

“Unfortunately hospital culture tolerates the bullying of students and gives them few options to seek help when bullying or harassment occurs.”

Participants of the survey outlined that many did not seek help or report the incidents as  in many situations the perpetrators were those who determined a student’s grades. Just 11% of respondents who had experienced bullying or sexual harassment reported it to the DHB or medical schools.

Some participants of the survey noted racism as an issue, particularly those of Asian descent.

According to the survey, “a consultant refused to learn the names. Instead he referred to them as "Bob" or "Bill". He would not alter this for the students gender so all Asian male, female and other gender students are called "Bill".

According to another account a medical student was asked if “they ate dog for dinner?”

Elizabeth Berryman says the situation is unacceptable.

"The NZMSA is calling for the improvement of reporting processes for bullying and harassment as well as anonymous reporting of incidents that do occur. We challenge senior doctors to acknowledge the unacceptable behaviour some of their peers show towards medical students and to work with us to help stamp out this behaviour which is toxic for students, for patient care and for the medical profession.”