For Patients' Sake Student Calls for Ending 'Hospital Bullying'

For Patients' Sake Student Calls for Ending 'Hospital Bullying'

The importance of having a thick skin in the medical profession is something that is probably widely understood. Certainly anyone who has pushed through medical school and endured residency training knows it can be a brutal run. But medical training that involves berating, bothering and bullying has also been a staple context of TV medical dramas for years, making it the stereotype held by the general public.

There are some in the medical community who say the time has come for a change. Among them is Ilana Yurkiewicz — a third-year medical student at Harvard University. She says that not only is the common bullying environment a toxic one that’s bad for nurses and doctors in training. She says it also poses a threat to patient care.

Her argument, laid out in a recent column in Aeon magazine, runs this way. Delivery of care in hospitals is a team effort. She says the days of a single doctor being on a patient’s case are gone and has been replaced by what she describes as an ecosystem of interacting nurses, interns, residents and attending physicians. Everyone contributes to care and open communication is crucial.

The problem, says Yurkiewicz, is that too many hospitals still support a culture in which withering criticisms from higher ups may be delivered with open hostility and disrespect. To avoid future abuse a victimized team member may stop stepping forward on behalf of patients. The result might be patient injury or death. Where negligence might be provable, it might warrant a claim of wrongful death.

For the sake of everyone, but especially patients, Yurkiewicz says it’s time for hospitals to focus on creating work cultures that curb bullying behavior and promotes humane conditions.

Source: Aeon, “Medical disrespect: Bullying doctors are not just unpleasant, they are dangerous. Can we change the culture of intimidation in our hospitals?,” Ilana Yurkiewicz, Jan. 29, 2014

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