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Resident Physician Forum
August 11, 1999

ACGME Procedures for Addressing Complaints Against Residency Programs

Author Affiliations

Prepared by Ashish Bajaj, Department of Resident Physicians Services, American Medical Association.

JAMA. 1999;282(6):602B. doi:10.1001/jama.282.6.602

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) review committees (Residency Review Committee [RRC], Transitional Year Review Committee, and Institutional Review Committee) are responsible for monitoring compliance with the ACGME institutional requirements and each specialty's program requirements. If a resident believes that a residency program is not complying with its requirements, the resident can alert the ACGME to this through a formal mechanism.

Before implementing the ACGME's complaint procedures, residents should understand that the ACGME and its review committees will not adjudicate disputes between individual residents and residency programs. All institutions are required to have formal grievance procedures; residents who are involved in disputes with a program regarding promotion, nonrenewal of contract, dismissal, sexual harassment, or discrimination should first use the institution's grievance procedures. If the institution lacks grievance procedures, it may be appropriate for a resident to file a formal complaint using ACGME's complaint procedures.

Residents who believe that their residency program or institution is not complying with the program or institutional requirements have several options available to them. The ACGME recommends that residents use these options in the order in which they are presented:

  • Try to resolve the issue directly with the residency program director.

  • Inform the institution's graduate medical education committee or a similar oversight body at the institution.

  • Contact the institution's resident organization or the appropriate institutional forum or individual appointed to address resident concerns.

  • Send a signed, written communication to the executive director of the RRC for that medical specialty. The ACGME cannot investigate an anonymous complaint.

Written and signed complaints must identify the specific program requirement(s) and/or institutional requirement(s) allegedly being violated and must provide documentation supporting the complaint. In addition, the resident must list and explain what steps were taken to resolve the issues within the institution and the results of those efforts.

If the ACGME determines that a complaint warrants investigation, it will bring the complaint to the attention of the appropriate RRC without revealing the name of the complainant. Such action will depend on the nature of the allegations and the documentation provided. If a complaint is forwarded to a RRC, the RRC will inform the program director and/or the designated institutional official of the allegations and request a written response.

After reviewing this response, the RRC may decide whether the complaint should be dismissed or whether it warrants further investigation. If the RRC decides to investigate further, it may schedule an immediate site visit or may plan to investigate during the next regularly scheduled site visit. After this investigation, the RRC will decide on an appropriate course of action based on the nature of the violation. Following the evaluation by a review committee, the complainant, program director, and/or the designated institutional official will be informed of the committee's decision in writing.

A complete copy of the "ACGME Procedures for Dealing with Complaints against Residency Programs," is available at