Perception of Shame in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Training

Kevin Christopher McMains, Jennifer Peel, Erik K. Weitzel, Hirak Der-Torossian, Marion Couch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objective This survey was developed to assess the prevalence and effects of the perception of shame in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery residency training in the United States. Study Design Survey. Setting US otolaryngology training programs. Subjects Faculty and trainees in US otolaryngology training programs. Methods A 14-item survey to assess the prevalence of the experience of shame and the attitudes toward use of shame in otolaryngology residency training was sent to all otolaryngology-head and neck surgery program directors for distribution among their respective faculty and resident cohorts. Results A total of 267 responses were received (women, 24.7%; men, 75.3%): 42.7% of respondents were trainees; 7.0% of trainees thought that shame was a necessary/effective tool, compared with 11.4% of faculty; 50% of respondents felt that they had been personally shamed during residency; and 69.9% of respondents had witnessed another trainee being shamed during residency training. Trainees were most commonly shamed in the operating room (78.4%). Otolaryngology faculty members did the shaming 95.1% of the time. Although shaming prompted internal reflection/self-improvement in 57.4% of trainees, it also caused loss of self-confidence in 52.5%. Trainees who had been shamed were more likely to view shame as an appropriate educational tool (P <.05). Conclusion Half of respondents have felt shamed during their residency training, and a majority has witnessed a colleague being shamed. Understanding the negative impact that shaming behaviors have on the learning environment and on the performance of the individual within it is an important first step in creating an environment maximally conducive to learning, professional development, and patient safety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)786-790
Number of pages5
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (United States)
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015


  • education
  • environment of learning
  • faculty
  • otolaryngology
  • teaching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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