Verbal Abuse By A Physcian

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about verbal abuse: He is rude, mean and verbally abusive to staff at the hospital and many employees go home crying every day.

We have a physician in our small hospital who handles 90% of the patients in the area. He is rude, mean and verbally abusive to staff at the hospital and many employees go home crying every day. Some of the nurses have even left work. When a situation occurs, and the abuse is mentioned, the response is, “I know” but what can we do? If he was not here we would not have enough patients to keep our doors open. I understand that, but I also don’t feel like he should get away with it just because he is a doctor. I have been on the receiving end of his verbal abuse in the presence of my own supervisor and another department director and nothing was done. Actually there were nervous giggles. I now do everything I can to avoid this physician. I have even left the department if he comes in. What can be done to stop this?

Signed, Need a Second Opinion

Dear Need a Second Opinion:

You and others in your workplace ask: What can we do? Here are some thoughts to consider: Long ago Aesop recorded a fable of The Mice in Council that reads– Once upon a time all the Mice met together in Council and discussed the best means of securing themselves against the attacks of the cat. After several suggestions had been debated, a Mouse of some standing and experience got up and said, “I think I have hit upon a plan which will ensure our safety in the future, provided you approve and carry it out. It is that we should fasten a bell around the neck of our enemy the cat, which will by its tinkling warn us of her approach.” This proposal was warmly applauded and it had been already decided to adopt it, when an old Mouse got upon his feet and said, “I agree with you all that the plan before us is an admirable one, but may I ask who is going to bell this cat?” Here’s a shorter lesson. This one of a bear hunt with a pack of Chihuahuas that surrounds a bear, barking from every side until the hunter can shoot.

Fortunately you have a ways of belling the cat and surrounding the bear. I sent your question to the manager of a small clinic who must deal with several doctors. She makes these suggestions:

“Hi, I would be happy to respond. I certainly can emphasize with this person. I will only answer from what I have learned in my short career as clinic manager. I do suggest finding training on managing difficult people. Knowledge is power and developing skills to manage this guy would be wise. The other staff may follow your lead as well. He sounds like a bully because he can. Perhaps he has too much on his plate and does not have the skills to manage the workload he has. Broaching this subject and working out a schedule with him or changing a few processes may be one way of letting him know you are willing to work as a team and that his well-being is considered too.

“In saying this: you should find the policy binder and look up “Respect in the Workplace” most organizations have this. It should also provide information on reporting abusive behaviors. Usually Occurrence Forms are filled out. It sounds like there should be a stack of them! You need documentation! This will force the department director to deal with what has been going on. You can also try looking up The College of Physician and Surgeons Web Site. Physicians have Codes of Conduct that they have to follow to. Reporting him to the College is also done by documentation and witnesses.

“Lastly, I know how hard it is to go to these lengths as you don’t want to lose the only doctor there but you may not have any staff left either if something is not done. I also say don’t be afraid of him either; he may be a doctor but that does not give him the right to treat others so poorly. He should be ashamed of himself and you should demand respect for you! Sometimes physicians like the staff that has backbones. It may shock him back to reality. I hope this helps.”

I am not including this individual’s name because I haven’t obtained her permission. But her advice is practical, respectful and grows out of experience. Most of all it is caring. What can you learn from Aesop, bear hunting and practical advice of a manager of a clinic who has to deal with difficult doctors in a community that much needs them?

1. You each as a human deserve respect and must have the courage to voice your displeasure on anyone who bullies. You can say, “Stop. Speak to me respectfully and I will do my best to help you. Yell at me and you won’t get the help you need.”

2. Research codes of conduct as the clinic manager recommends and reporting forms. Contact those up the ladder to learn what the policy for dealing with abuse of employees is.

3. As a group you need to document bullying with specifics of incidents: what, when, were, who observed and the language/gestures used.

4. With data in hand, your clinic manager can have a head-to-head professional private meeting with the doctor and if he responds positively a follow up can commend him for that. If he reacts with more bullying, like pack of Chihuahuas, you can bark. Bullies are stopped in their tracks when surrounded.

5. Approach this as a clinic-wide team that wants both profit and service by delivering excellent patient service. Skull sessions from subgroups can find ways to provide better by thinking and discussing ways to make their jobs more effective, less frustrating, and happier. Of course it is easier to give advice than to carry it out. So mull it over and then bite your tongue and live with what you face day after day or act. If you and your coworkers will do the research and log abuse, you can make a difference.

These are more than enough thoughts in answer to your question for now. Habits of bullying have formed over time and they are not transformed in a day, if ever. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS is my way of saying it takes courage and know-how to shape the kind of workplace that is employee and customer friendly and effective. And that the benefits of that are enriching and big.

William Gorden