The discriminatory patient and family: Strategies to address discrimination towards trainees

Gary Camelo, Fidelindo Lim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose Trainee mistreatment remains an important and serious medical education issue. Mistreatment toward trainees by the medical team has been described; mistreatment by patients and families has not. Motivated by discrimination towards a resident by a family in their emergency department, the authors sought to identify strategies for trainees and physicians to respond effectively to mistreatment by patients and families. Method A purposeful sample of pediatric faculty educational leaders was recruited from April-June 2014 at Stanford University. Using a constructivist grounded theory approach, semistructured one-on-one interviews were conducted. Participants were asked to describe how they would respond to clinical scenarios of families discriminating against trainees (involving race, gender, and religion). Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and anonymized. The authors analyzed interview transcripts using constant comparative analysis and performed post hoc member checking. This project was IRB approved. Results Four themes emerged from interviews with 13 faculty: assess illness acuity, cultivate a therapeutic alliance, depersonalize the event, and ensure a safe learning environment. Participants wanted trainees to feel empowered to remove themselves from care when necessary but acknowledged that removal was not always possible or easy. Nearly all participants agreed that trainee and faculty development was needed. Suggested educational strategies included team debriefng and critical reffection. Conclusions Discrimination towards trainees by patients and families is an important issue. As this type of mistreatment cannot be fully prevented, effective preparation is essential. Effective response strategies exist and can be taught to trainees to empower responses that protect learners and preserve patient care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S64-S69
JournalThe American nurse
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • Patient Assignment
  • Discrimination
  • prejudice/stereotyping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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