Sunday, May 15, 2011

Doctors Purported to be Bullies

May 15, 2011 -The New York Times has highlighted a story by an oncology nurse on doctors as bullies of nurses (Theresa Brown, “Physician, Heel Thyself,” May 8, Op-Ed) and published a series of letters to the editor with the same theme (“When Doctors Humiliate Nurses,” May 15).

Portraying doctors as “heels” may be satisfying to The Times headline writer, but in my opinion, represents an editorial misjudgment. And most physicians I know admire nurses and praise them rather than”humiliate” them.

An undercurrent of this story and some of these letters is that doctors also bully patients. Doctors, it seems, harbor some sort of superiority or authority-gone- to-their-head complex by virtue of their training.

I do not doubt there is a rare doctor who “bullies” nurses and patients. But I find the pieces in The Times overdone and overdrawn, lacking editorial balance, a naiveté about the true nature of health care professionals, and a preoccupation with bullying.

In its hunger for news, the media is full of stories about husbands bullying wives, parents bullying children, teenagers bullying other teenagers, bosses bullying employees, and those in authority, in general, bullying everyone beneath them. We are all, it appears, victims.

There are also countless stories about the need for teamwork, collaboration, and multidisciplinary and multicultural understanding. Most doctors, including myself, are acutely aware we must maintain a culture of civility and a climate of respect and dignity. This is especially true in caring for the sick, which is why we have ten other health care professionals for every doctor.

In an adult world requiring order, someone has to be in charge and to serve as a guide. Carrying out this responsibility should be done maturely and with compassion, and it usually is.

I agree with Dr. Herbert Padres, President and CEO of New York Presbyterian Hospitals, who writes in his letter to the editor in The Times.

“Doctors who accept only their own counsel are putting ego before medicine, possibly at the expense of the patient. Hospital care should be based on collective wisdom to reach the best treatment plan. Nurses, doctors, and all highly trained medical professionals each have a role to play, each of which is invaluable to the patient.”


Dr, Patricia Pitsel said...

The defense of physicians from allegations of bullying behaviour might be more believable had it come from a source other than a fellow physician. It is harder to bully a peer (thought not impossible, of course.) It is easier, and more common for those in a hierarchial environment to bully subordinates. said...

This will not really work, I suppose this way.