Cross-Campus Collaborators Assess How to Tackle Abusive Behaviours in the Clinical Workplace

| St. Catharines, Ontario
Contributed by Mary Taws

In the video above, Meredith Vanstone, Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine, and Amanda Bell, regional assistant dean of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine Niagara Campus, explore the critical issue of mistreatment of students in a clinical setting. Both Dr. Vanstone and Dr. Bell are members of MERIT, McMaster’s FHS program for Education Research, Innovation and Theory.

“We want to acknowledge that medical mistreatment happens, and it happens here just like it happens at all other medical educational institutions,” Dr. Vanstone explains. “At McMaster, we’re interested in improving the experience of students as well as our learning environment.”

As a recipient of a 2016 Health Leadership Academy Research grant, Dr. Vanstone collaborated with Dr. Catherine Connelly, from the DeGroote School of Business, Dr. Bell, and other leaders in the Michael DeGroote School of Medicine, to better understand mistreatment of medical learners in the clinical workplace.

“Medical education is an interdisciplinary field of study, but one of the disciplines we haven’t engaged with very much in the past is business,” says Dr. Vanstone. “The opportunity to work with Dr. Catherine Connelly from the School of Business has been really advantageous for us.”

Drawing from literature in areas from organizational management to team behaviour, this research project engaged students to better understand their experiences in the clinical workplace.

According to Dr. Bell, this approach was essential to improve services for students.

“Until now, a lot of the work we’ve done around mistreatment has been based in policy or what we as leader or administrators think is required,” explains Dr. Bell. “But we hadn’t really dug into student ideas of why this behaviour is happening or how to address it.”

Moving forward, Dr. Vanstone’s team will release a series of video vignettes on several ‘grey area’ clinical scenarios that students commonly encounter in training. These vignettes are intended to illuminate stressful interpersonal situations that may arise in clinical training, providing the opportunity for learners and educators to reflect upon what types of behavior may be rude or erosive, but tolerable, and what types of behaviours rise to the level of mistreatment. This forthcoming series is part of an initiative to educate both educators and students on understanding and improving civility and relationships in the clinical workplace.

Dr. Vanstone also sees the opportunity for further scholarly work, and more practically, faculty development.

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