What is Mistreatment?

The Faculty of Medicine is a community of learners, faculty and staff who share responsibility for creating and maintaining a positive, inclusive, learning and work environment where all participants are valued and treated with respect: see UBC Statement on Respectful Environment. Learners and faculty in the Faculty of Medicine are also required to conduct themselves in accordance with the Professional Standards for Learners and Faculty Members.

Learner mistreatment is disrespectful or unprofessional behaviour directed at a learner or a group of learners that has a negative effect on the learner or the learning environment. Mistreatment is any conduct that is contrary to the principles that support a respectful environment and includes making demeaning, offensive, belittling and disrespectful comments, using abusive language, engaging in bullying, harassment, and discrimination.

Mistreatment negatively affects individuals, disrupts the learning environment and impedes learning. Learning environment refers to the social interactions, organizational culture and structures, and physical and virtual spaces that surround and shape the learners’ experiences, perceptions, and learning.

Learners must be supported by their peers, the faculty, and Faculty of Medicine leadership, to challenge and change unacceptable behaviours that disrupt the learning experience. We are each accountable for the learning environment and must adopt the best and most responsible ways to advocate for the needs and interests of learners.

Are you still unsure? You have the following options:

  1. Contact someone directly to have an initial confidential discussion.
  2. Report online and you will be contacted within 48 hours.

Categories of Mistreatment

Experience Unacceptable Conduct Acceptable Conduct
Publicly humiliated A student is told, in rounds, that he/she is stupid or lazy when he/she doesn’t know the answer to a question. A student who doesn’t know the answer to a question during rounds is advised by the preceptor to look it up.
Threatened with physical harm A Preceptor pounds his/her hand on the desk and says loudly “If you do that again I will smack you”. In a clinical setting a staff person shouts at you to get out of the way because there is an emergency.
Physically harmed A trainer throws materials at you, saying, “Read it again”. Student is inadvertently burned during cautery in surgery. The surgeon apologizes.
Required to perform personal services A student is asked to pick up an attending’s dry cleaning. A student is asked to get coffee for themselves and for the team prior to rounds. The team gives the student money.

Experience Unacceptable Conduct Acceptable Conduct
Subjected to unwanted physical touching or sexual advances A Dean puts a hand on your shoulder, saying “I would like to teach you something… later” After an upsetting incident the Dean puts their hand on a shoulder, asking “How are you doing?”
Asked to exchange sexual favours for grades or other rewards A trainer tells you “I’m sure your evaluation will improve if we talk about it over dinner...” A trainer says “Let’s meet after rounds to talk about your evaluation. I will help you with organizing your case presentations.”
Denied opportunities for training or rewards based on gender Nurse says to patient, “we only have a male medical student today. You probably don’t want to be seen by a guy?" Staff person says to student, “I’ll ask the patient if she is okay being examined by a male?”"
Subjected to offensive sexist remarks/names Preceptor says, “Hi Gorgeous” and to patient, “Aren’t we fortunate to have the lovely Margaret with us today? Hard to believe she’s a medical student!” Preceptor says to patient, “This Margaret. She’s the fourth-year medical student on our team today."
Received lower evaluation/grades based on gender Preceptor says: "I don’t expect you to get your hands dirty in the OR. You should really think about psych or family – you girls are so good at those soft skills." Preceptor says to all students “All students will do well in this rotation if you are prepared to put in the work."

Experience Unacceptable Conduct Acceptable Conduct
Denied opportunities for training or rewards based on race or ethnicity Preceptor says to student from ethnic minority when they meet for the first time: “I really don’t think that you will find this subspecialty is for you. You won’t find many of your people seeking this sort of treatment.” Preceptor supports all students in their career plans.
Subjected to racially or ethnically offensive remarks/names A Program Director says: “You people make great pathologists – you guys are always talking.” No comments are made about race or ethnicity.
Received lower evaluations or grades solely because of race or ethnicity rather than performance A trainer comments on an evaluation and says in their experience “people like you should specialize so you can treat your community better.” No statements are made about race or ethnicity.
Subjected to offensive remarks about religion A preceptor says to a student observing Ramadan, “you better let go of that if you want to survive residency in this specialty.” A preceptor says to a student observing Ramadan, “you know, I’m not too clear on the purpose of Ramadan, would you mind explaining to me as we walk to rounds?”

Experience Unacceptable Conduct Acceptable Conduct
Denied opportunities for training or rewards based on sexual orientation A preceptor says: “I don’t think you will like Ortho. It’s a pretty tough specialty – too much heavy lifting for girls.” No general or specific comments about sexual orientation.
Subjected to offensive remarks/names related to sexual orientation A Faculty member says “You seem like a really nice person – strange that such pretty girl would like girls instead of guys”. No general or specific comments about sexual orientation.
Received lower evaluations or grades solely because of sexual orientation rather than performance Someone says “My impression is that people like you are super sensitive and not really cut out for this specialty.” No general or specific comments about sexual orientation.
Subjected to discriminatory remarks regarding gender identity A staff person says “All these new gender neutral washrooms! Why can’t you people use the one they’re supposed to? People have been doing it all their lives up until now.” No general or specific comments on gender identity.

Patient mistreatment negatively affects the learning environment and is particularly difficult for learners to address on their own. It is important for you to report incidents of patient mistreatment to your preceptor or supervisor at the time they occur. Your preceptor can intervene to support you and take appropriate steps to ensure that such mistreatment does not impede your learning experience. Your preceptor can also assist you to process the interaction and develop strategies to address such behaviour in the future.

Peer-to-Peer mistreatment is disrespectful or abusive conduct, by someone at the same level, i.e. another undergraduate student, another post-graduate student, another faculty member, another resident, another graduate, another researcher, that should be addressed and reported as you would any mistreatment. Mistreatment between peers is as damaging to learners and the learning environment as mistreatment of learners by faculty or staff.

Anonymous Reporting

If you make an anonymous report you do not provide your personal information but you can provide the details of your experience or concern. The online reporting tool can be used to make an anonymous report. Because we do not have any of your identifying or contact information you will not be contacted by the REDI Office or your program to discuss your experience or to obtain any additional information.

Anonymous reports limit the responses available to the Faculty of Medicine to address the identified concerns. However, there are times when this is the only way learners feel comfortable reporting their experiences and such reports may still provide a basis for some intervention by Faculty of Medicine leadership particularly when similar or related concerns are raised by multiple reports and can be tested for veracity by further inquiry.

Confidential Reporting

If you make a confidential report you provide your personal information along with the details of your experience or concern. The Faculty of Medicine is committed to responding to reports of learner mistreatment in a confidential manner. This means that in most situations your personal details will not be shared without your permission or without first discussing disclosure with you. In order to address the concerns you have raised the details of your concern or experience will be shared but only with those in the Faculty of Medicine who have responsibility for addressing reports of learner mistreatment. To the extent possible those details will be disclosed without identifying you personally.

Even when a learner does not wish to take any further steps with respect to a situation in which there has been mistreatment or unprofessional behaviour circumstances may require a response by Faculty leadership. This could take the form of an institutional inquiry. Where such inquiry will be undertaken to assess and respond to the concerns you have raised your identity will be kept private as much as possible. If further inquiry into the mistreatment means that your identity may be disclosed, either directly or indirectly, this will be discussed with you before further steps are taken. You will be provided with ongoing support and protection against retaliation.