Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


The hidden curriculum in undergraduate medical education: qualitative study of medical students' perceptions of teaching

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 30 September 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:770

Rapid Response:

What bullying? In defence of medical education

I regret to read of the experience of several medical students being
subjected to humiliation teaching methods in pursuit of the hidden
curriculum (1). Such report of bully tactics in educating tomorrow’s
doctors does nothing to inspire confidence in the medical profession of
the future.

I was surprised to read that this was not the only UK medical school.
It seems that experience of a fear factor being used to motivate medical
students is commonplace in at least two other UK medical schools (2,3).

I agree with the view expressed by two medical students (2,3) that
bullying and humiliation are unacceptable in the education of any
professional, especially doctors. However, I must disagree with Philip
Peacock's (3) and Jonathan D Beavers’ (2) observations that such events
are familiar to the majority of medical students. Based on my experience
of medical school, this is not the case.

As a final year student, I have never felt humiliated by a clinical
teacher, and not once felt pressured to learn in order to avoid
embarrassment. I assure you, this is not due to particularly sound
knowledge or clinical acumen. On the contrary, I have experienced
tremendously patient and dedicated teachers, despite my lack of knowledge,
throughout my years at medical school.

I felt the need to defend current medical education standards. My
medical education has been characterised by inspirational role models who
strive to teach positively. It seems to me that bullying methods are
thankfully a thing of the past. In fact, my medical school has gone to
such lengths to prevent such behaviour that the main gripe of students
nowadays is the endless completion of feedback forms on medical teaching.
In my opinion this culture change has achieved a climate where it is
impossible to get away with negative teaching.


(1) Lempp H, Seale C. The hidden curriculum in undergraduate medical
education: qualitative study of medical students' perceptions of teaching.
BMJ 2004;329:770-773

(2) Beavers JD. Fear factor. BMJ Rapid response to (1)

(3) Peacock PJ. Culture change is needed. BMJ Rapid response to (2)

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

01 November 2004
Aled M jones
medical student
Oxford University Medical School, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford