Learning Environment and Professionalism

Please note if the incident is an emergency (fear of harm for yourself or someone else), please contact the Associate Dean for Student Affairs via the emergency line.

Please click on links below to file either a positive learning environment and professionalism report and/or a student mistreatment and professionalism incident report.


Background: Rutgers New Jersey Medical School has a responsibility to foster professional development with the goal of providing humanistic and compassionate health care by all members of the New Jersey Medical School community, including medical students, graduate students, resident physicians, faculty, volunteers and other staff who participate in the educational process.

We believe that teaching and learning should take place in a climate of mutual respect where students are evaluated based upon accomplishment, professionalism and academic performance. We are committed to maintaining a positive learning environment and the highest standards of behavior in the teacher-student relationship.

New Jersey Medical School maintains its commitment to requiring the highest standards of professionalism. This includes preventing and addressing student mistreatment and by providing support for those who are subjected to mistreatment, and by responding with corrective action to incidences of mistreatment  

The NJMS Teacher-Learner Relationship and The Learning Environment in Medical Education Policy addresses the behaviors required from all those who are in training sites, including faculty members, residents, nurses, staff, or students in a teaching role. It is intended to ensure  a psychologically safe educational environment in which students, staff, volunteers, and faculty may raise and resolve issues without fear of intimidation or retaliation.

As per the NJMS Academic Equity in the Medical School Learning Environment, students who believe that assessment of their performance may have been negatively affected by bias should report this to either course or clerkship/site director, Associate/Assistant Deans for Education, the Associate Dean for Students Affairs or Executive Vice Dean or through the Learning Environment and Professionalism reporting system.

AAMC Definition of Mistreatment:"Mistreatment either intentional or unintentional occurs when behavior shows disrespect for the dignity of others and unreasonably interferes with the learning process."

Examples of Mistreatment:

Certain behaviors are inherently destructive to the teacher-learner relationship. Behaviors such as violence, sexual abuse or harassment, inappropriate conduct or discrimination based on personal characteristics must never be tolerated. Other behaviors can also be inappropriate if their effects interfere with professional development. Behavior patterns such as making habitual demeaning or derogatory remarks, belittling comments or destructive criticism fall into this category. On the behavioral level, abuse may be operationally defined as behavior by medical school faculty, residents, or students, which is disapproved by society and by the academic community as either exploitive or punishing.

Examples of inappropriate behavior or situations that would be unacceptable include:

  • Physical contact, including any physical mistreatment or assaults such as hitting, slapping, kicking, throwing objects or threats of the same nature
  • Verbal abuse (attack in words, or speaking insultingly, harshly)
  • Comments and jokes of stereotypic or ethnic connotation, visual harassment (display of derogatory cartoons, drawings or posters)
  • Inappropriate or unprofessional conduct that is unwarranted and reasonably interpreted to be demeaning or offensive
  • Requiring a student to perform tasks intended to humiliate, control, or intimidate the student
  • Unreasonable requests for a student to perform personal services
  • Grading or assigning tasks used to punish a student rather than to evaluate or improve performance
  • Purposeful neglect or exclusion from learning opportunities as means of punishment
  • Sexual assault or other acts of sexual violence
  • Sexual harassment
  • Disregard for student safety
  • Microaggressions are the daily, commonplace interactions (verbal, nonverbal, behavioral, environmental), whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults towards members of marginalized groups


Professionalism is one of the core elements of the faculty's annual performance evaluation. Faculty are expected to behave courteously and professionally with trainees, students, and colleagues, as well as all members of the health care team and patient, and follow the University policies, including compliance, infection protection, and safety and training requirements.

Furthermore, faculty, residents, and staff are expected to demonstrate: 

  1. empathy, compassion, integrity, and respect for others including students, patients, faculty, and health care team members; 
  2. responsiveness to patient needs and advocacy for patients; 
  3. respect for student and patient privacy and autonomy; 
  4. accountability to patients, society and the profession, including dependability and punctuality in lectures, small groups, team activities, and patient care; 
  5. sensitivity and responsiveness to a diverse student and patient population, including but not limited to diversity in gender, age, culture, economic status, race, ethnicity, religion, disabilities, and sexual orientation; 
  6. ability to provide effective direction and constructive feedback. 

Options for Reporting: There are several options for reporting mistreatment and/or disconnects in professional behaviors/attitudes demonstrated by faculty and/or residents.

  1. Anonymous student mistreatment or professionalism report
  2. Anonymous end of course or clerkship evaluation
  3. Discuss with the Associate Dean for Student Affairs
  4. Discuss with the Executive Vice Dean
  5. Discuss with the course/clerkship director

The Learning Environment and Professionalism Subcommittee of the Curriculum, Academic Programs and Policies Committee monitors the learning environment. They meet quarterly and report to the Curriculum, Academic Programs and Policies Committee. They review the results of student evaluations of courses and clerkships as it relates to the learning environment and may choose to survey students and other groups to ascertain further information regarding positive and negative influences in this arena.

At the subcommittee's quarterly meetings the Associate Dean for Student Affairs and the Executive Vice Dean will report on incidents that have been brought to them regarding concerns about the learning environment and unprofessional behavior with any personal identifiers redacted. Based on these sources of information the Learning Environment Subcommittee will make recommendations regarding the need for interventions (e.g., faculty and staff education and development) to address issues that are leading to a sub- optimal learning environment and these will be presented to the Curriculum, Academic Programs and Policies Committee for consideration.

The decision and final recommendations of this committee will be presented to the Faculty Council and Dean for consideration. Feedback on the success of implemented changes and programs is monitored by the Curriculum, Academic Programs and Policies Committee, the Faculty Council and Dean.

Response to Reported Mistreatment/Professionalism Concerns:

The Learning Environment and Professional Subcommittee will work with departments and/or affiliate site leadership to provide feedback to individuals and create a corrective action plan.