The ANU Medical School has rung in the year with the launch of an anti-bullying and sexual harassment campaign.
The campaign has been led by the distribution of a booklet co-written by third year medical student Greg Threlfall and school graduate Dr Eilidh Gilritchie. The booklet provides advice for students on ‘the definitions, policies and avenues for reporting bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination.’
A 2015 study in the Medical Journal of Australia found that 81 percent of medical students had witnessed humiliation during adult clinical rotations and 74 percent had experienced it firsthand. In 2016 a Senate inquiry similarly found bullying and harassment to be significant cultural problems in the medical profession.
A 2013 nation-wide study conducted by Beyond Blue found that one in five Australian medical students reported suicidal thoughts over the previous year, with 40 to 50 percent of students experiencing emotional exhaustion and symptoms of depression or anxiety above normal levels. An increased likelihood of experiencing or witnessing harassment and bullying is suggested to be a contributing factor to these findings.
ANU Medical School Dean Professor Imogen Mitchell herself admitted to being a victim of bullying and harassment as a junior doctor early in her career.
On behalf of the Medical School, Professor Mitchell said that the university makes it very clear that ‘bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination have no place in the medical profession, and won’t be tolerated at the ANU Medical School.’
ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt reiterated this by telling students at the launch of the booklet that they have the support of the University to speak out against bullying, discrimination and harassment.
The campaign has also placed an emphasis on being proactive about improving the experiences of medical students. The reference guide launched last month ends with a message encouraging students to take control and ‘enact positive change’ in order to ‘shift the culture surrounding bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination.’