‘When I stood up for something it's because I felt a… moral violation’: Trainees' acts of resistance against social harm and injustice

Tasha R. Wyatt*, Vinayak Jain, Ting Lan Ma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Introduction: As medical students around the world enter their chosen profession, they inherit a system that they did not design nor create, yet are still responsible for it. This system is rooted in centuries of social harm and inequity. This study examines trainees' professional acts of resistance to understand what trainees hope to accomplish in their resistance efforts, why they are resisting, and the tactics they use. Methods: Drawing on counter-storytelling and critical theory, we collected in-depth qualitative interviews from nine medical students and nine residents/fellows across North America. Using theoretical guidance on how to study acts of resistance, data were analysed using a combination of coding techniques to understand resistors' intentions in resisting and the tactics they used to understand what, why, and how trainees were resisting. The analysis was returned to participants for member checking. Results: Trainees described resisting systems of harm and injustice bequeathed to them by an older generation whose values and practices were reflective of a different time. Their motivations stemmed from deep-seated moral distress from the mistreatment of patients and learners. They hoped to re-envision medical education to be patient- and learner-centred. The tactics they chose depended on the level of power they had in the system and the extent to which they wished to have their efforts known. Discussion: Trainees described intentional and deliberate acts of resistance to the social harm and injustice embedded in the broader profession to re-create the profession. Given that these acts spanned a large geographical area, this study suggests that trainees may be part of a larger social movement aimed at creating widespread change within the profession.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-463
Number of pages7
JournalMedical Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2024
Externally publishedYes


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