Original Research

Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 27, Issue 12, pp 1643-1648

First online:

Does Gender Moderate Medical Students’ Assessments of Unprofessional Behavior?

  • Terry D. StrattonAffiliated withDepartment of Behavioral Science, University of Kentucky College of MedicineOffice of Medical Education, University of Kentucky College of Medicine Email author 
  • , Rosemarie L. ConigliaroAffiliated withOffice of Medical Education, University of Kentucky College of MedicineDepartment of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, University of Kentucky College of Medicine

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Despite widespread acceptance of professionalism as a clinical competency, the role of certain contextual factors in assessing certain behaviors remains unknown.


To examine the potential moderating role of gender in assessing unprofessional behaviors during undergraduate medical training.


Randomized, anonymous, self-administered questionnaire.


Ninety seven (97) third-year students from a southeastern U.S. medical school (participation rate = 95.1 %).


Using a 4-point Likert-type scale, subjects reviewed two subsets of randomly administered, equally weighted hypothetical vignettes depicting potentially unprofessional behaviors that could occur during medical students’ clinical training. Ratings were categorized from 1 –“Not a Problem” to 4 –“A Severe Problem”, based on the perceived degree of unprofessionalism. In each written scenario, trainee gender was systematically varied.


Across all scenario subsets, male and female students’ mean ratings of hypothetical behaviors did not differ significantly. Further, male and female students tended, on average, to rate behaviors similarly regardless of the trainee’s gender.


Study findings suggest that: (1) neither students’ gender nor that of the hypothetical “actor” moderates the assessment of unprofessional behaviors; and (2) male and female students assign roughly the same overall rankings to potentially unprofessional behaviors.


professionalism gender medical education unprofessional behavior