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- This article primarily concerns bullying involving doctors. For bullying involving nurses see Bullying in nursing.
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.
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, may 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 humiliated by teachers in front of patients
- been victimised for not having come from a "medical family"
- being put under pressure to carry out a procedure without supervision.
One study showed that the medical faculty was the faculty in which students were most commonly mistreated.
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.
Medical training usually takes place in institutions that have a highly-structured hierarchical system, and has traditionally involved teaching by intimidation and humiliation.[How to reference and link to summary or text] 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
The psychiatric profession might be expected to be particularly sensitive to bullying and its consequences. However psychiatric trainees experience rates of bullying at least as high as other medical students. In a survey of psychiatric trainees in the West Midlands, 47% 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 article: Patient abuse
Speaking of many doctor's predilection of bullying nurses, Teresa Brown writes:
- "...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."
Bullying in nursing
- Main article: Bullying in nursing
Nurses experience bullying quite frequently. It is thought that relational aggression (psychological aspects of bullying such as gossipping and intimidation) are commonplace. Relational aggression has been studied among girls but not so much among adult women.
In popular culture
Sir Lancelot Spratt, a character played by actor James Robertson Justice in the film series Doctor in the House, is often referenced as the archetypal arrogant bullying doctor ruling by fear.
In the American sitcom Scrubs, Dr. Cox uses intimidation and sarcasm as methods of tormenting the interns and expressing his dislike towards them and their company.
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- (1975). Two familial cases of congenital erythroderma ichthyosiforme. Revue médicale de Liège 30 (13): 439–44.
- Fears reprisals by warning of research fraud 
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- Gadit AA Bullying in psychiatry must stop - Clinical Psychiatry News, May, 2007
- Doctor faces court-martial in patient abuse case Stars and Stripes January 16, 2010
- 'Groping' surgeon found guilty BBC News 28 July 2002
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- Wood DF Bullying in medical schools Student BMJ October 2006
- Bullying and harassment British Medical Association 8 May 2007
- Guidance for medical students on harassment, intimidation, victimisation and bullying British Medical Association 21 December 2007
- Bullying and harassment of doctors in the workplace Report British Medical Association Health Policy & Economic Research Unit May 2006
- The cost of bullying to the NHS
- News stories
- Bullying on the NHS BBC News January 22, 1999
- Bullying 'ruining NHS workers' lives' BBC News 6 December 2000
- Many junior doctors bullied BBC News 11 April 2002
- One in four junior doctors bullied BBC News 26 September 2002
- Dunne R 'My fellow doctors bullied me' BBC News 9 June 2003
- NHS anti-bullying culture ordered BBC News 12 January 2006
- Targets' triggering NHS bullying BBC News 18 May 2006
- Surgery team 'unsafe' - and at times 'dangerous' Staffordshire Newsletter 10 March 2011
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