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Learning Environment & Medical Student Mistreatment Policy

Approved by the UCC on 08/15/12 (revised by UCC on 05/06/16)

AAMC Statement on the Learning Environment

We believe that the learning environment for medical education shapes the patient care environment. The highest quality of safe and effective care for patients and the highest quality of effective and appropriate education are rooted in human dignity. We embrace our responsibility to create, support, and facilitate the learning environment shared by our patients, learners, and teachers. In this environment, our patients witness, experience, and expect a pervasive sense of respect, collegiality, kindness, and cooperation among health care team members. This includes all professionals, administrators, staff, and beginning and advanced learners from all health professions. This includes research as well as patient care environments. We affirm our responsibility to create, support, and facilitate a learning environment that fosters resilience in all participants. It is our responsibility to create an atmosphere in which our learners and teachers are willing to engage with learning processes that can be inherently uncomfortable and challenging. We affirm our commitment to shaping a culture of teaching and learning that is rooted in respect for all. Fostering resilience, excellence, compassion, and integrity allows us to create patient care, research, and learning environments that are built upon constructive collaboration, mutual respect, and human dignity.

Learning Environment & Medical Student Mistreatment Policy


The  Learning Environment & Medical Student Mistreatment Policy (1) outlines expectations for specific behaviors that establish an appropriate learning environment and mitigate the risk of student mistreatment; (2) defines unprofessional behavior and student mistreatment; and, (3) specifies grievance reporting procedures for breaches in the professional learning environment and incidents of student mistreatment.


Maintaining a safe and healthy learning environment requires that the faculty, administration, residents, fellows, healthcare professionals, staff, and students treat each other with the respect due colleagues. All educators should realize that students, residents and fellows depend on them for evaluations and references, which can advance or impede their career development. Educators must take care to judiciously exercise this power and to maintain fairness of treatment, avoiding exploitation or the perception of mistreatment and exploitation. The quality of medical education rests not only in the excellence of the content and the skills that are taught, but also in the example provided to students, residents and fellows of humane physicians and  educators who respect their professional colleagues at all career levels, their patients, and one another.  An appropriate student learning environment should foster professional growth, support academic achievement, and encourage the attainment of educational goals.  Accordingly, MUSC’s learning environment should serve as a model of professionalism and collegiality and be characterized by professional attributes (i.e., altruism, duty, knowledge, and skill).  All members of MUSC including faculty, staff and learners annually attest to the MUSC Code of Conduct and should demonstrate the values prescribed therein, which include integrity, trustworthiness, impartiality, respect, stewardship, confidentiality and compliance with laws and policies. Breaches in professional behavior and mistreatment of students threaten the learning environment and the institutional culture of professionalism and will not be tolerated. (Link to MUSC Code of Conduct )


Examples of Student Mistreatment

Student mistreatment is defined as behavior by any faculty or staff member that is discriminatory, unfair, arbitrary, or capricious in nature, behavior inconsistent with the values presented in the MUSC Discrimination Policy, or unreasonably interferes with the learning process. When assessing behavior that might represent mistreatment, students are expected to consider the conditions, circumstances, and environment surrounding such behavior.

Examples of student mistreatment include, but are not limited to the following:

·     Verbally abusing, belittling, or humiliating a student

·     Intentionally singling out a student for arbitrary treatment that could be perceived as punitive

·     Excluding students without cause from reasonable learning opportunities

·     Assigning duties as punishment rather than education

·     Pressuring students to exceed established restrictions on work hours

·     Exploiting students in any manner, e.g., performing personal errands

·     Directing students to perform an unreasonable number of “routine hospital procedures”, i.e., “scut” on patients not assigned to them or where performing them interferes with a student’s attendance at educational activities, e.g., rounds, classes

·     Pressuring a student to perform medical procedures for which the student is insufficiently trained, i.e., putting a student in a role that compromises the care of patients

·     Threatening a lower or failing grade/evaluation to a student for inappropriate reasons

·     Committing an act of physical abuse or violence of any kind, e.g., throwing objects, aggressive violation of personal space

·     Making unwelcome sexual comments, jokes, or taunting remarks about a person’s protected status as defined in the MUSC Nondiscrimination Policy Statement.

·     Being treated in an unfair, offensive, or discriminatory manner based on gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation

No Retaliation Policy

The MUSC Code of Conduct strictly forbids discrimination or retaliation against any MUSC members who reports in good faith any instances of conduct that do not comply or appear not to comply with Federal or State laws and regulations or MUSC policies and procedures.  At MUSC each member has the right to remain anonymous, as allowed by law, and to use confidential mechanisms provided by MUSC to disclose non-compliant activity without fear of retaliation of such reports. Retaliation can result in employment termination or academic dismissal. Individuals who believe they are experiencing retaliation are strongly encouraged to contact the Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education, the Associate or Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, the Associate Dean for Curriculum in the Basic Sciences, or the Associate Dean for Curriculum in the Clinical Sciences so that the situation can be addressed immediately.



A.     Distribution of Policy to learners, house staff, nurses, faculty, and administration.

      This policy will be presented annually

(1)   To all medical students in their respective academic orientations held in years 1-4.

 (2)   To all interns in their orientation

(3)   To all housestaff, nurses, faculty and administration in an annual email from the COM Office of Student Affairs.

B.   Reporting Concerns of Possible Mistreatment

Medical students who experience possible mistreatment or observe other students experiencing possible mistreatment are encouraged to report the incident if the matter cannot be resolved directly with the offending party. Suggested options for reporting are listed below:

Options for Reporting

1.     Email or speak directly with any of the following people:

  •     theme or course director
  •      the Associate Dean for Curriculum in the Basic Sciences or the Associate Dean for Curriculum in the Clinical Sciences
  •     the Associate and/or Assistant Deans for Student Affairs
  •     the Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education


2.     Submit a named or anonymous report via the E*value “On the Fly” evaluation system. These evaluations are flagged and shared with the College of Medicine Dean’s Office through the Office of Student Affairs.


3.     Submit an anonymous report through the MUSC compliance hotline at 1-800-296-0269 (Toll-free, available 24 hours, 7 days a week).

Medical Students requesting complete anonymity should be made aware that doing so may interfere with the College of Medicine’s ability to investigate the concern and their ability to receive information about the follow-up investigation.

Medical Students may also choose to pursue claims of unlawful discrimination or harassment in compliance with the University’s Anti-Harassment Policy: “The Medical University of South Carolina is an equal employment opportunity employer and does not tolerate any form of harassment or intimidation based upon sex, race, color, age, religion, national origin, disability or any other factor. Inquiries or complaints may be addressed to the Director for the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action at (843)792-1568.

Further information may be found at

In the case of possible gender discrimination or sexual harassment, students have the additional option of contacting the MUSC Office of Gender Equity.  This office addresses issues that involve students, residents, or faculty as either the complainant or the subject of a complaint.  Inquiries or complaints may be addressed to either the College of Medicine designated officer (Jennifer Nall, BS, Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, 792 7254 or directly to the Office of Gender Equity (792 8066).  Further information may be found at

C. Responding to Concerns of Mistreatment

Every effort is made to respond to concerns of mistreatment in a timely and professional manner to minimize the risk of harm including retaliation.  All complaints will be fully investigated and measures will be taken to reach an appropriate resolution.  Except in cases of an anonymous complaint, students will be provided with clear and timely feedback concerning the status and resolution of their complaint. 

The Office of Student Affairs will provide a de-identified annual written notice of reported concerns of mistreatment towards medical students (with corresponding dates indicated on the report) to the Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education.   The Senior Associate Dean will review and present this annual report for discussion and comment with a governing committee of COM Deans (EDAS committee, consisting of Associate and Assistant Deans in the following areas:  Education, Diversity, Admissions, and Student Affairs).  Aggregate and de-identified data on reports of mistreatment of medical students will be created by the Office of Student Affairs and shared with the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee at least quarterly.



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