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Unreported bullying plaguing junior doctors

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HC Online | 27 May 2015, 08:25 AM Agree 0
Reports have emerged that bullying is rife in hospitals where teaching occurs – but medical residents are afraid that reporting their seniors’ inappropriate conduct could jeopardise their careers.
  • Bernie Althofer | 28 May 2015, 04:48 PM Agree 0
    Unreported complaints about workplace bullying and other counterproductive workplace behaviours provides a telling tale about the culture that exists. It does seem that many organisations have developed and implemented a range of policies and procedures to assist managers and workers in the prevention, detection, reporting and resolution of workplace bullying.

    However, it does appear that despite training being provided, managers and workers at all levels seem reluctant to actually formally report incidents. As the numerous discussions have identified, when individuals see that bullying is required to 'get ahead'; that the alleged bullies get promoted or rewarded; that targets are further threatened, intimidated or harassed when the make a complaint; when targets find that work opportunities dry up because they dared to go against the bully and/or their supporters; or when they fear substantial personal economic hardship for standing up to the bully, then in some cases, they may a decision not to respond. They end up suffering in silence, or in some cases, adopt the bullying behaviours and that only perpetuates the bullying cycle.

    When a small group of decision makers wield considerable power that can impact on their careers (or lack thereof), bullying continues although in some organisations it might not be seen as bullying, It might be as a 'master/servant' relationship where the 'master' is able to demonstrate their power in a variety of ways, because that is what they learned from their masters.

    Unfortunately for many reasons, there are those in the medical profession who for necessity already work long hours. When these individuals are already under pressure from medical examinations and advice they are required to conduct and give, their ability to sustain high levels of performance can be severely impacted if they are also being subjected to bullying behaviours. There will come a time when a death is referred to a Coroner and skilful questioning will identify that the doctor had been subjected to a range of behaviours that impact on their decision making processes, leading to and inappropriate or an incorrect diagnosis.

    Organisational health surveys can be conducted in an effort to identify the extent or prevalence of bullying. However, if individuals perceive that even an anonymous survey could be 'traced back' to the person completing it, they may be less than willing to document their reasons for not reporting bullying, particularly if the survey is conducted and analysed internally.

    It does seem whilst some programs have been designed to develop doctor/patient skills, there may well be a need to provide junior doctors or medical students with relevant training and skills so that they can be confident in reporting bullying behaviours without fear of retribution.
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