There has been a lot of discussion in the hallways and on social media in the past few days in reaction to numerous recent news articles about bullying and infighting amongst doctors in Ontario. Several key stakeholders, including the CMA, previous leaders of the OMA and the public have focused new attention on the issue of bullying among doctors.
As residents, issues of bullying in medicine are unfortunately not new or newsworthy – I know many of us have experienced bullying and unprofessional behaviour during our training. But the difference now is that this behaviour has escalated to include personalized threats and has morover been made public through various social media channels. Rightfully, the public is now paying attention.
Your colleagues – medical students and residents – have been coerced, maligned, and had their careers threatened by staff physicians and associates. It goes without saying that this behaviour is reprehensible. Exposing this behaviour to the public is warranted despite the risk of public confidence in doctors being shaken.
The majority of our teachers and staff physicians are excellent role models of professionalism. Unfortunately, the loudest voices in the medical arena over the past several months have not upheld the standards we should expect from professional colleagues. Constructive, respectful discourse must always be encouraged; personal attacks and reflexive reactions to complex problems must not go on unchecked.
As the future of the profession, how do we as residents respond? I would argue that we should lend our voice to calling out and exposing bullying wherever it exists and more importantly by continuing, as resident physicians, to be exemplars for professionalism.
Since stepping into the role of PARO President, I have witnessed first-hand the turmoil amongst our senior colleagues in organized medicine. As a result I have spent time reflecting on what type of physician I want to be and how our generation of resident physicians may move beyond this.
In this time of uncertainty, fall back on what you know to be right. Our final year medical student colleagues have just matched to their residency programs, and can remind us of what initially motivated us to train as doctors. We all want to do the best we can for our patients, and to gain respect in doing so. Professionalism is the cornerstone of this goal.
If you find yourself in a situation where those around you are behaving unprofessionally, instead choose to be considerate, respectful and honest. We as residents have the power to be leaders, not only for the medical students we teach but also for our senior colleagues. So let us choose to respond to issues with considerate questions, respectful dialogue and honest feedback.
PARO is here for you anytime you need help. Please call or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you require assistance with bullying or unprofessional behaviour. You can also contact the PARO 24 Hour Helpline at 1-866-HELP-DOC (1-866-435-7362)
We can do better. Residents can lead the way.
Dr. Stephanie Kenny