Guiding Principles for the Appropriate Treatment of Medical Students

Alpert Medical School is a learning community composed of students, residents, fellows, faculty, other health care professionals, and staff whose goal is to enable each learner to achieve an education to his/her fullest potential while providing quality patient care. A cornerstone of the educational community is the expectation that learners will be treated appropriately and with dignity. The Guiding Principles of Professional Behavior of Alpert Medical School states, "Professionalism requires recognition of and respect for other persons." In our diverse learning community, respect is to be demonstrated toward all individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. Such a learning environment includes honest and constructive corrective feedback. Such feedback should be provided in a helpful, specific and accurate manner, focused on behaviors, and, when negative, given privately and respectfully. Those providing feedback should do so mindful of the goal of helping the learner to improve. Those receiving feedback should do so graciously, with the assumption that it is given generously and in good faith. When inappropriate treatment is perceived to have occurred, learners must be able to communicate their concerns free from the fear of retribution. Academic growth often occurs best when the learner is challenged. Heated discourse and conflict are part of the academic environment of openness, and can be conducted in a civil and respectful way.

Following are some specific illustrations of behaviors that would promote appropriate treatment of learners, and behaviors that would be considered inappropriate:

Examples of Appropriate treatment

  • 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 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 towards a higher level of knowledge and skill
  • Focusing such feedback on observed behaviors and desired outcomes, with suggestions for improvement
  • Encouraging an awareness of faculty responsibilities towards all individual learners in a group setting
  • Providing an educational experience of the highest quality, along with the time, preparation and research necessary to achieve that goal
  • Basing rewards and grades on merit, not favoritism
  • Focusing constructive criticism on performance rather than personal characteristics of the student
  • All staff at Brown-affiliated hospitals are expected to adhere to the expectation to treat students with dignity and respect.
  • The acknowledgement by learners of course or rotation expectations and the responsibility for fulfilling those requirements to the best of one's ability
  • Asking for feedback from professors, interns, residents nurses, and attending physicians
  • The acceptance of feedback provided by faculty in an objective manner and the incorporation of such feedback into future efforts so as to achieve the desired educational outcome
  • An understanding that feedback is given with the intention of helping to further the student's progress in meeting course or rotation expectations.
  • Promptly and properly addressing, through appropriate administrative avenues, of any incidents and circumstances that fall outside the tenets set forth here
  • An honest and earnest effort to provide constructive criticism—written, verbal or otherwise—to peers and supervisors, when such feedback is likely to enhance their colleague's skill as a physician

Examples of inappropriate treatment

  • Questioning or otherwise publicly addressing students in a way that would be considered by others to be humiliating, dismissive, ridiculing, berating, embarrassing or disrespectful
  • Asking students to perform personal chores (e.g., buying lunch, running errands)
  • Telling inappropriate stories or jokes (e.g., ethnic, sexist, racist)
  • Behaving in an aggressive manner (e.g., yelling, throwing objects, cursing, threatening physical harm) that creates a hostile learning environment
  • Assigning tasks or denying educational opportunities with the intent of punishment
  • Making disparaging comments about students, faculty, patients or staff
  • Touching students in a sexual manner
  • Taking credit for a student's work
  • Intentional neglect
  • Under no circumstances will Alpert Medical School consider it acceptable practice for faculty to demonstrate bias, prejudice, exclusion, or other unprofessional behavior such as humiliation towards our students. Such unacceptable behavior includes the creation of a concern of “retaliation” by faculty for the filing of a complaint for unprofessional behavior. Likewise, students must appreciate that the provision of constructive feedback in a professional and objective manner by faculty is a desirable means of providing students with guidance in the learning process – such feedback is encouraged and in the best interests of our school.