Wiki:Bullying in medicine

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Source: Bullying in medicine by Wikipedia

Bullying in the medical profession is common, particularly of student or trainee doctors. It is thought that this is at least in part an outcome of conservative traditional hierarchical structures and teaching methods in the medical profession which may result in a bullying cycle.

According to Field, bullies are attracted to the caring professions, such as medicine, by the opportunities to exercise power over vulnerable clients and over vulnerable employees.


Bullying can significantly decrease job satisfaction and increase job-induced stress; it also leads to low self confidence, depression, anxiety and a desire to leave employment. Bullying contributes to high rates of staff turnover, high rates of sickness absence, impaired performance, lower productivity, poor team spirit and loss of trained staff.This has
implications for the recruitment and retention of medical staff.

Bullying of medical students

Main article: Bullying in academia

Medical students, perhaps being vulnerable because of their relatively low status in health care settings, commonly experience verbal abuse,
humiliation and harassment (nonsexual or sexual). Discrimination based on
gender and race are less common.

In one study, around 35% of medical students reported having been bullied. Around one in four of the 1,000 students questioned said they had been bullied by a doctor, while one in six had been bullied by a nurse. Manifestations of bullying include:

  • being humiliatedby teachers in front of patients
  • been victimised for not having come from a “medical
  • being put under pressure to carry out a procedure without supervision.

One study showed that the medical faculty was the faculty in with the students were most commonly mistreated.

Bullying of postgraduate students

Bullying extends to postgraduate students.

Bullying of junior (trainee) doctors

In a UK study, 37% of junior doctors reported being bullied in the previous year and 84% had experienced at least one bullying behaviour. Black and Asian doctors were more likely to be bullied than other doctors. Women were more likely to be bullied than men.

Trainee doctors who feel threatened in the clinical workplace develop less effectively and are less likely to ask for advice or help when they need it.Persistent destructive criticism, sarcastic comments and humiliation in front of colleagues will cause all but the most resilient of trainees to lose confidence in themselves.

Consultants who feel burnt out and alienated may take their disaffection out on junior colleagues.

 Bullying cycle

Medical training usually takes place in institutions that have a highly-structured hierarchical system, and has traditionally involved teaching by intimidation and humiliation. Such practices may foster a culture of
bullying and the setting up of a cycle of bullying, analogous to other cycles of abuse in which those who experience it go on to abuse others when they become more senior.
Doctors are increasingly reporting to the British Medical Association that
they are being bullied, often by older and more senior colleagues, many of whom were badly treated themselves when more junior.

Bullying in psychiatry

Intuitively, the psychiatric profession might be expected to be particularly sensitive to bullying and its consequences. However psychiatric trainees are in no way exempt with rates of bullying at least as high as other medical students. In a survey of psychiatric trainees in the West Midlands, 47 per cent had experienced bullying within the last year with even higher percentages amongst ethnic minorities and females. Qualified psychiatrists are not themselves required to be psychiatrically tested.

Doctors bullying/abusing patients and nurses

Main articles: Patient abuse and Bullying in nursing
Wiki letter w cropped.svg This section requires expansion.

There have been quite a few proven cases of doctors bullying and/or sexually harassing patients and nurses.

Speaking of many doctor’s predilection of bullying nurses, Teresa Brown

“…the most damaging bullying is not flagrant and
does not fit the stereotype of a surgeon having a tantrum in the operating room.
It is passive, like not answering pages or phone calls, and tends toward the
subtle: condescension rather than outright abuse, and aggressive or sarcastic
remarks rather than straightforward insults.”

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