CONTEXT Sexual harassment of medical students has been the focus of many international studies. Prevalence rates from 18% to over 60% have been reported. However, a Dutch study at Nijmegen Medical School found the prevalence rate to be lower (13.3% in the total group; 20% among female students only).
OBJECTIVES We aimed to identify whether Nijmegen constitutes a positive sample of Dutch medical schools or whether incidents of sexual harassment are less prevalent in the Netherlands than elsewhere, and to establish if and how these experiences impact the professional lives of students.
METHODS Students received a semi-structured questionnaire containing questions about their experiences of sexual harassment during clerkships. The questions referred to students' reactions to any incidents, the possible consequences for their wellbeing or professional functioning and the way cases of sexual harassment were handled.
RESULTS The prevalence of sexual harassment was significantly higher in Utrecht than in Nijmegen. In both studies rates were relatively low compared with international data. Nevertheless, 1 in 3-5 Dutch female medical students had experienced unwelcome sexual attention from patients, colleagues or supervisors. Three of 10 students who had experienced such an incident stated that it had a negative impact on their functioning afterwards.
CONCLUSIONS Prevalence rates of sexual harassment in medical schools in the Netherlands are low compared with international rates. However, the number of women students who experience sexual harassment is still 1 in 3-5. The occurrence of and ways to deal with these incidents should be important topics in the training of medical students and supervisors.