Discrimination and abuse experienced by general internists in Canada
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OBJECTIVE: To identify the frequency of psychological and emotional abuse, gender discrimination, verbal sexual harassment, physical sexual harassment, physical assault, and homophobia experienced by general internists. DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey. SETTING: Canadian general internal medicine practices. RESULTS: The overall response rate was 70.6% (984/1,393); the 501 respondents who classified themselves as general internists were studied. Three-fourths of the internists experienced psychological and emotional abuse at the hands of patients, and 38% of the women and 26% of the men experienced physical assault by patients. The majority of the female internists experienced gender discrimination by patients (67%) and by physician peers (56%). Forty-five percent of the women experienced verbal sexual harassment by patients, and 22% experienced physical sexual harassment by patients. The male internists experienced verbal sexual harassment from nurses slightly more often than the female internists did (19% vs 13%, p > 0.05). Verbal sexual harassment by male colleagues was reported by 35% of the female internists, and physical sexual harassment was reported by 11%. Approximately 40% of general internists reported homophobic remarks by both health care team members and patients. CONCLUSIONS: Abuse, discrimination, and homophobia are prevalent in the internal medicine workplace. A direct, progressive, multidisciplinary approach is necessary to label and address these problems.
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