Problem: Learner mistreatment has remained an ongoing challenge in Academic medicine despite accreditation requirements mandating that every program has systems in place to prevent and respond to mistreatment. While efforts vary across institutions, much remains unanswered in the literature about best practices. Additionally, for the foreseeable future, challenges in the learning environment will likely continue and potentially worsen, given the confluence of multiple external stressors including the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty burnout and general political divisiveness in the nation. It is essential, therefore, to focus on indicators of improvement via process metrics such as knowledge and awareness of mistreatment policies and procedures, willingness to report, reasons for not reporting, and satisfaction with having made a report, while simultaneously focusing on the more complex challenge of eliminating mistreatment occurrences. Intervention: We describe the aspects of our mistreatment prevention and response system first implemented in 2017 along with process and outcome measures. The interventions included expanding our policy outlining appropriate conduct in the teacher-learner relationship; a graduated response protocol to allegations of mistreatment with a clear escalation approach; an online reporting system; a graduate medical education exit survey which mirrors the AAMC Graduation Questionnaire on mistreatment; a robust communication and professional development campaign; a comprehensive data dashboard; and a comprehensive summary report dissemination plan. Context: The interventions were implemented at the largest allopathic medical school in the U.S., with nine campuses across the state. The system is available to all learners, including medical students, graduate students, residents, and fellows. Impact: Both institutional and national data sources have informed the continuous improvement strategies. Data from internal reporting systems, institutional surveys, and national data are presented from 2017 to 2021. Findings include an increasing number of incidents reported each year, including confidential reports from students who include their contact information rather than report anonymously, which we view as an indicator of learner trust in the system. Our data also show consistent improvements in learners’ awareness of the policy and procedures and satisfaction with having made a report. We also include other data such as the nature of complaints submitted and timeliness of our institutional response. Lessons Learned: We present several lessons learned that may guide other institutions looking to similarly improve their mistreatment systems, such as a close partnership between faculty affairs, diversity affairs, and educational affairs leadership; communication, professional development, and training through multiple venues and with all stakeholders; easily accessible reporting with anonymous and confidential options and the ability to report on behalf of others; policy development guidance; data transparency and dissemination; and trust-building activities and ongoing feedback from learners.
Student mistreatment; learning environment; process improvement.