Medical Student "Hazing" Is Unhealthy and Unproductive

Christine Wiebe, MA

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Physician training has always been a demanding process, with exhaustive amounts of information to digest and grueling hours required at the hospital. While trying to excel in this competitive environment, medical students often are belittled and even humiliated by their superiors.[1,2] Of course, most would agree that a certain amount of intellectual confrontation can be constructive. "Pimping" students on hospital rounds, for instance, is an age-old practice that forces them to be prepared and to think on their feet.[3] At some point, however, the "tough love" approach to medical training crosses the line into abuse.

The impact of medical student hazing extends beyond the injured students themselves. One medical student described the transformation on an online blog: "It seems that the first thing they do to us on entering school is to strip us of our soul... Before you realize it, the sweet and caring person who once chose this course to care for human life, turns into a monster that couldn't care less for the human. . . .[4]" Another student writing on the same blog described a humiliating rotation where attendings cursed and yelled at the medical students; similar stories soon poured in from other students and residents.[5]

Unfortunately, medical students who are mistreated often go on to become doctors who mistreat other medical students, creating a cycle of abuse.[6] This pattern has continued despite "righteous declarations by the academic community.[6]" To break this cycle now, individual physicians will have to acknowledge these unhealthy behaviors. They must get beyond any mistreatment they suffered and demonstrate the compassionate behavior that colleagues, students, and patients deserve.

That's my opinion. I'm Christine Wiebe, Associate Editor of Medscape Med Students.


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