Appropriate Treatment of Medical Students in the Learning Environment and Definition of Mistreatment

Mistreatment is defined as behavior that adversely affects the learning environment and negatively impacts the learner/teacher relationship. Inappropriate and unacceptable behaviors promote an atmosphere in which abuse is accepted and perpetuated in the learning environment. In general, actions taken in good faith by faculty or residents to correct unacceptable performance is not considered mistreatment. Pointing out during rounds, conferences, operating rooms, or other settings that a learner is not adequately prepared for his/her assignments or required learning material is not mistreatment unless it is done in an inappropriate manner.

The following are some specific illustrations of behaviors that would promote appropriate treatment of medical students and residents, and behaviors that would be considered inappropriate:

Examples of appropriate behavior include, but are not limited to:

  • Conducting all interactions in a manner free of bias or prejudice of any kind
  • Providing a clear description of expectations by all participants at the beginning of all educational endeavors, rotations and assignments
  • Encouraging an atmosphere of openness in which students and residents will feel welcome to offer questions, ask for help, make suggestions, and disagree
  • Providing timely and specific feedback in a constructive manner, appropriate to the level of experience/training, and in an appropriate setting, with the intent of guiding students and residents towards a higher level of knowledge and skill
  • Focusing feedback on observed behaviors and desired outcomes, with suggestions towards improvement
  • Focusing constructive criticism on performance rather than personal characteristics of the student or resident
  • Basing rewards and evaluations on merit, not favoritism


Examples of inappropriate behavior include, but are not limited to:

  • Questioning or otherwise publicly addressing students or residents in a way that would generally be considered humiliating, dismissive, ridiculing, berating, embarrassing, or disrespectful by others (including persons outside the medical profession)
  • Asking students or residents to perform personal chores (e.g., buying lunch, bringing coffee, running errands, )
  • Telling inappropriate stories or jokes (e.g., ethnic, sexist, racist, crude)
  • Behaving in an aggressive manner (e.g., yelling, throwing objects, cursing, threatening physical harm) that creates a hostile environment
  • Assigning tasks or denying educational opportunities with the intent of punishment
  • Making disparaging comments about students, residents, faculty, patients, patients’ families, other health care professionals, or staff
  • Touching students or residents in a sexual manner
  • Taking credit for a student’s or resident’s work
  • Intentional neglect or habitual disregard for student/resident learning


Under no circumstances is it considered acceptable practice for any participant in the educational programs to demonstrate bias, prejudice, exclusion, or other unprofessional behavior. Such unacceptable behavior also includes the creation of a concern of “retaliation”. Any perceived or witnessed action of mistreatment shall warrant the filing of a complaint or grievance as desired by the aggrieved party according to the procedures for filing a complaint or grievance.

Students who experience mistreatment are urged to proceed with the formal process of reporting that mistreatment as described in the dispute resolution policies (Student Faculty dispute resolution policy).