Home Academic medicine Trainees learn to trust a physician reporting system for bad behavior

Trainees learn to trust a physician reporting system for bad behavior

A study found that 1% of faculty were responsible for half of all reports of unprofessional behavior

December 2022

AN ONLINE REPORTING system that lets residents and trainees give feedback about faculty members found that less than 1% of faculty were responsible for half of all reports of unprofessional behavior.

A study that appears in JAMA Network Open examined the implementation of a structured—and anonymous—reporting system that allowed trainees to report good and bad feedback about faculty. The system was rolled out at Mount Sinai Health System, a New York City academic medical center that has 2,900 faculty members working with 600 medical students, 1,000-plus graduate students and postdoc fellows, and 2,600 residents and fellows.

Between October 2019 and December 2021, Mount Sinai received nearly 200 reports from trainees on faculty members. Those reports came from residents and fellows (55.5%), medical students (34.7%), and graduate students and postdoc fellows (9.8%). Women accounted for more than half (55%) of all the reports filed.

Researchers found that 88% of reports detailed unprofessional behavior. While most reports detailed behavior by faculty (61.3%), 13.9% concerned the behavior of residents and fellows.

The most common reports alleged public embarrassment or humiliation (55%); inappropriate remarks concerning gender, sexual orientation, national origin, race, color or religion (33%); and the withholding of opportunities or recognition because of membership in a protected group (9%).

Moreover, researchers found that only 20 faculty members accounted for 50% of the reports concerning unprofessional behavior. Sixteen of those members received more than one negative report. Mount Sinai handled most of the reports (94%) through a single discussion with the faculty member who was the subject of the complaint, but 10 resulted in a written warning. Fourteen faculty underwent a “physician wellness evaluation.”

In the study, researchers noted that an increasing number of trainees are using the system to report behavior. They believe that’s due in part to the fact that trainees trust the system to protect the confidentiality of their reports. When making negative comments, 60% of those filling out reports opted to remain anonymous.

The study examined the attitudes of one group of trainees—medical students—toward the reporting system in more detail. The authors found that while 97% of medical students knew about the system and 50% said they had been mistreated, only 36% had actually used the system to file a report.

The percentage of medical students at Mount Sinai who reported abuse was higher than the national average (27%), but the percentage who were happy with the outcomes of their report was lower than the national average (33% vs. 46%).

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