Physician Bullying of Nurses Reaching Epidemic Levels

  1. A doctor-bully epidemic is jeopardizing both nurses and patients. In news reports and hospital break rooms, stories abound of physicians berating nurses, hurling profanities, or even physically threatening or assaulting them. Doctors are shoving ...
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    Doctors bully nurses: Hospital mistreatment is a danger to patient health.
    Last edit by sirI on May 19, '15
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  2. 110 Comments

  3. by   jayc1157
    There has always been and always will be the double standard. The hospital administration allows physicians to act like spoiled children without any consequences. When it boils down to a CT surgeon VS. a nurse. The hospital will fire the nurse and find a new one which are a dime a dozen. I've had doctors tell me " Are you Stupid ? ". I reported it to hospital administration and nothing happened.
    Last edit by jayc1157 on May 17, '15
  4. by   macawake
    In news reports and hospital break rooms, stories abound of physicians berating nurses, hurling profanities, or even physically threatening or assaulting them. Doctors are shoving nurses in the operating room; throwing stethoscopes, scissors, pens, or surgical instruments. In Maryland, a surgeon yelled, “Are you stupid or something?” at a nurse and hurled a bloody surgical sponge at him. A surgeon threw a scalpel at a Virginia nurse
    Some of these examples are completely ridiculous and in the "real world" they'd come with consequences. The police, jail and a criminal record kind of consequences. Utterly unacceptable behavior.

    Not only is it unacceptable that some individuals are allowed to treat others this way, but as OP pointed out it has the potential to negatively affect patient outcome. Research clearly shows that a hierarchical organization with scared and intimitated employees is a threat to patient safety.

    I'm glad that I live in country where physicians aren't viewed as "income-generators". Because of this the motivation/incentive to protect individuals who can't function in a workplace and turning a blind eye to or covering up their unacceptable behavior, is largely non-existant.

    During my final year of nursing school (BSN) I had clinicals for a couple of weeks in the ER together with a class mate, with two final year medical students and two final year physical therapy students. The purpose of that clinical was to practice teamwork and to gain an insight into what the other professions do.

    We worked in different constellations of three (nurse, MD, PT to-be) and received our own ER (ortho) patients. The preceptors for the three professions sat in a room, drank coffee and caught up on their paperwork and we'd go and update them on our plan of action. (Of course the patients were appropriately triaged to fit our "student ER" and the patients were asked if they were ok with being treated by students. Also the preceptors would monitor our plan/progress and do examinations of their own if deemed necessary).

    I loved this clinical and so did the other students. I think it's an excellent way to foster an egalitarian work environment. We got to share thoughts and concerns when we were all new and unsure about many things and got to see and talk about what the other professions' challenges are. When you've been humbled that way and bonded, the step to start throwing scalpels at each other is hopefully a bit longer.

    (Actually throwing a scalpel at someone isn't normal behavior and will likely not be cured by team-building exercises, but I think that you all understand what I'm trying to say here).
    Last edit by macawake on May 17, '15
  5. by   Emergent
    Gee, I've never encountered anything of the sort. At my facility they fire doctors who behave badly.
  6. by   Altra
    Agree - and I have to say that I strongly object to the title of the article and its prominent placement on the AN home page.

    Is there evidence of this issue just now worsening, as implied by the title - "reaching epidemic levels"?

    Sometimes I am very disappointed in how this site presents the nursing profession to the world.
  7. by   herring_RN
    We had a surgeon who often loudly berated nursing staff.
    We started calling a "Code Purple' when that happened. (There was no actual code purple at our facility)
    The unit secretary and other available staff would respond with clipboards documenting in real time what was said and done.
    Copies were provided to our nurse manager, medical director, and risk management.

    Twice it happened in front of a patient. One patient told me the following night that someone from "Customer relations" came to his room and asked about it and apologized for the doctor's behavior.

    The yelling, name calling, and insults stopped.
  8. by   macawake
    Quote from Altra
    Agree - and I have to say that I strongly object to the title of the article and its prominent placement on the AN home page.
    I agree with you, I also found the title to be a bit "National Enquirer" and I'm also curious to know if bad behavior has actually become more common than previously.

    I do think that it's an important topic since it affects both the nurse's work environment and patient safety and it needs to be discussed. However, since the vast majority of physicians are completely decent and normal-behaving this article may be unnecessarily infammatory, promoting an us-vs-them mentality that I don't believe benefits any of us. So by all means let's discuss it, but perhaps with slightly less literary fireworks and drama..
  9. by   Spidey's mom
    Quote from Altra
    Agree - and I have to say that I strongly object to the title of the article and its prominent placement on the AN home page.

    Is there evidence of this issue just now worsening, as implied by the title - "reaching epidemic levels"?

    Sometimes I am very disappointed in how this site presents the nursing profession to the world.
    Quote from macawake
    I agree with you, I also found the title to be a bit "National Enquirer" and I'm also curious to know if bad behavior has actually become more common than previously.

    I do think that it's an important topic since it affects both the nurse's work environment and patient safety and it needs to be discussed. However, since the vast majority of physicians are completely decent and normal-behaving this article may be unnecessarily infammatory, promoting an us-vs-them mentality that I don't believe benefits any of us. So by all means let's discuss it, but perhaps with slightly less literary fireworks and drama..
    I'll add my name to the list of AN members who are disappointed with the title of this thread as well.

  10. by   elkpark
    "Most nurses have witnessed or been the victims of doctor bullying"?

    Where are all these horrible places that are described in the article? I've been in nursing for 30 years, in five different states (so far), in a lot of different hospitals/facilities, and I've never worked anywhere where that kind of behavior would be tolerated. I've seen plenty of situations in which a physician could have been more politic and collegial in a given interaction with a given nurse, but have never witnessed anything that I would remotely consider "bullying" (and, no, I am not some self-effacing, masochistic, Nancy Nice Nurse martyr -- if I saw any actual inappropriate behavior, I would be the first person to call it out).
  11. by   Emergent
    I, too, tire of the frequent 'nurses as victims' themes here on AN. And, physicians are having a lot of struggles in my neck of the woods with a health care system that is squeezing the joy and life blood out of them. They are sometimes being unceremoniously shown the door if they aren't productive enough, or don't kiss up well enough.
  12. by   NicuGal
    I did witness one surgeon who yelled and threw things in the OR when I was in school. 15 years later the nursing staff took it to the media and he was fired.

    My hospital does not tolerate this type of behavior.
  13. by   Tenebrae
    True story

    A couple of orthopedic surgical registrars were smoking out front of the hospital, in clear violation of the no smoking rule. The CEO (who happens to be a small diminuitive femaile) walked past and pointed out that they shouldnt be smoking there.

    One of the registrars drew himself up and said "who the hell do you think you are, I'm a surgeon"

    The CEO handed him her business card. I wasnt there but I'm told the doctor went a very nasty shade of green...
  14. by   Tenebrae
    In regards to the OP

    Never had a trouble with doctors.

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