Medical Students' Speak Up Barriers: A Randomized Controlled Trial With Written Vignettes

Jesper Dybdal Kayser, Annette Kjær Ersbøll, Michaela Kolbe, Doris Østergaard, Peter Dieckmann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


OBJECTIVES: Little is known about medical students' speak-up barriers upon recognizing or becoming aware of risky or deficient actions of others. Improving our knowledge on these helps in preparing student to function in actual health care organizations. The aim was to examine medical students' perceived reasons for silence in respect to different speak-up situations (i.e., vignette content) and to test if vignette difficulty had an effect on reasons indicated.

METHODS: This study was a randomized, controlled, single-blind trial, with text-based vignettes to investigate speak-up barriers. Vignette contents described speak-up situations that varied systematically with respect to speak up barrier (i.e., environmental norm, uncertainty, hierarchy) and difficulty (i.e., easy, difficult). For each vignette, participants indicated which speak-up barriers they regarded as important.Descriptive analysis was performed for the study population, the numbers of barriers perceived and rating of vignette difficulty. Logistic regression analysis was used to examine the association between barriers perceived and vignette contents, designed vignette difficulty and subjectively rated vignette difficulty.

RESULTS: A total of 265 students were included. The response rate was 100%. Different barriers were relevant for the different vignettes and varied in a consistent way with the theme of the vignette. Significantly more speak-up barriers were indicated for participants with the difficult version for vignette 1 (not an environmental norm) and vignette 3 (hierarchy) with odds ratio (OR) = 1.52 and 95% confidence interval (95% CI: 1.33-1.73) and OR = 1.25 (95% CI: 1.09-1.44). For (OR) estimates, confidence intervals were rather large.

CONCLUSIONS: Perceived barriers for speak-up vary consistently with the characteristics of the situation and more barriers preventing speak up were related to the difficult versions of the vignettes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Patient Safety
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18. Mar 2024

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