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Righteous Isthelord

I have also worked in the OR and observed this type of behavior. I have no answer for this poor nurse, but Harvard surgeon Lucian Leape often gives talk about the "culture of disrespect" that infests healthcare and would not be acceptable in any other industry. He also states that a minority of bad actors are responsible. This cardiothoracic surgeon exemplifies what Dr. Leape tells us about, but of course Dr. Gooser is a hack and couldn't hold a candle to Dr. Leape and his skills.

Charles

I'm sorry to hear about your troubles. I think a better way to go about it, is to anonymously report that physician to the state medical board for creating a hostile environment. The medical board is more powerful than anybody else in this case. They can suspend and take away a medical license. Hence the physician wouldn't have a job and could not obtain another job until the issue is resolved. Generally it should be reserved for severe cases, which the one you describe well surpasses that. Hope this helps.

Ben

I agree with those who recommend calling the police. Assault is assault, regardless of where it occurs or who carries it out.

Regardless of what you do about this publicly, however, please get some actual therapy, not just anti-depressant medication. Therapy is more effective in the long run, prevents relapse, and gives you actual tools that you can use after treatment is over.

wulansari

Many travel nurses claim that working as a travel nurse gives them a renewed sense of patient focused nursing.

MJESF

This nurse needs to get out of that clearly toxic environment. Having escaped (and litigated about) one, I can tell you that having cash flow problems is much easier than crying every day about having to go to work.

Walter Underwood

This isn't an HR matter, it is a criminal matter. These descriptions are clearly assault (the verbal attacks) or battery (the physical attacks). Throwing items covered with blood could be aggravated assault.

Co-workers may be more likely to talk to a grand jury than to HR.

Pru Montgomery

You should tell your nurse contact that they are not treated like that in other countries. We need heaps of nurses here in Australia and I've never heard of anything like that happening. Time to consider a move to another country where we appreciate how important nurses are.

S

There's been some great advice so far, particularly regarding legal action or even calling 911. The piece that is missing, though, is knowing that you aren't alone (banding with co-workers doesn't necessarily address this) and that these aren't isolated incidents. You may want to reach out to groups that are doing work within the healthcare field on a broader basis. IHI is one organization off the top of my head that has a great staff and really works to improve the work environment for doctors and nurses. Maybe it's time to send your story out to organizations like IHI? At the very least they'd be able to act as a resource for where to go for further action and advice.

Good luck!

PerGynt

Hint. Punitive damages are provided by courts so that people with bad habits will think twice about hurting somebody else. So even if you don't have an injury that costs you money to have treated, you can still discourage abusive people from doing what ever they want to whomever they want.
Assault is when he makes you immediately expect to be struck or touched harmfully or offensively. Battery is when he actually touches you with his hands or with an object, even if he throws it, offensively or harmfully. So, if he has ever touched you harmfully or offensively, that is battery. A good lawyer might be able to make an argument that anything with blood on it is a dangerous object. Think about that.
You have suffered from what lawyers call "intentional infliction of emotional distress". It is a cause of action. You have already had to go to a doctor to be treated for an emotional issue. Now you need to go to a lawyer and settle this matter. Another hint. The hospital is required to protect you and provide you with a safe place to work. That's the law. If they refuse to protect you from a regime of harassment and abuse they are responsible for your safety at work. Remember, judges don't usually think you shoul have ot put up with that crap, and they don't usually expect you to hav eto go get another job if you are being harassed or injured at work.
Go talk to an employment lawyer. Shop for a good one. Sue the doctor. Sue the hospital. And sue them again if they try to fire you. If you are one of a group of people, encourage everyone to sue the doctor and the hospital. Remember the documentation you all filed? That's called evidence. You know the things that you all see and tell each other? That's called testimony. There are laws in this country that disallow brutal people the pleasure of brutalizing other people.Some of these things you are describing are civil torts and some might even rise to being crimes. Remember, judges don't care whether you are a doctor or a scrub nurse. Standing in a court room is one place where you are absolutely equal. You are not wrong to protect yourself with the law. It is your right. It will be a shame if you do not use the law to protect yourself in this case.

Do it.

P

Anonymous

(Dr. Bob: THANK YOU FOR CARING. When I saw my email to you posted on your website, I cried. I don't feel like one little voice in the darkness anymore.)

Cameras in the OR are prohibited due to HIPAA (privacy laws). We were "threatened" with cameras in the OR for the purpose of firing any RN who was not requiring the doctor to follow the "time out" procedure (identifying patient, type of procedure and side ). Surgeons couldn't be bothered stopping 30 seconds for the "time out" and still occasionally openly heckle the RN reciting the required verbal documentation and request for verbal agreement on the procedure. On the contrary, we welcomed videotaping! It would prove once and for all the abuse we endure. Once senior management saw that we were not intimidated by videotaping, but instead empowered by it, at the surgeons request they decided that it was "overkill" to assure compliance with the time-out procedure.

Unfortunately, nurses, being mostly female, will not stick up for one another. Nurses do not step forward to lead. Leaders are chosen by who does not step back in the face of conflict. This is a non-union hospital.

Tracy Sanders

Wow!! The nurse's story made me sad. I have a friend who is a Charge Nurse at a major hospital. She was being bullied by an employee who was a protected class. He had the union behind him. She threatened litigation,a nd that was effective. I used to work for the government many years ago -- for a military organization. You learn early on that you have to adopt a C.Y.A. policy because many of the officers wouldn't hesitate to throw a lowly admin. under the bus. There were several times in my career early on where I kept a diary and I noted exact times and exact conversations. An entry might read:

4/18/08 -- 3:46 PM -- Standing in front of Col. S's office and having a conversation with Person X and Person Y when Col S. asked me to change an entry on Document X. I advised Col S. that this was against the law and that I was uncomfortable with it....

There were a few times that I actually had to pull out the documentation I had kept. It was so meticulous that the next time, they did not mess with me in that manner.

If it were me, I would just document it all and take it and then I would contact a reporter at a newspaper or go and talk to a lawyer. There is such a thing as reprisal against a whistleblower. I would also take a little microphone in with me to record some of the rants and just keep it in my pocket and depress the button during the most heinous times.

It's never pleasant to deal with these types of situations -- I hope things get better for you!!

Nathan

It pains me to see someone going through this sort of situation. I've been through some rough situations, but nothing like this one.

The reality is that nurses are in high demand, but are still treated as a commodity. It's a tough, but extraordinarily valuable profession.

That said, legal action can be a challenge. I would advise against video recording, since that could trigger some privacy issues.

It seems to me that legal action is needed, and but numerous individuals. People need to have courage to do what is right and necessary. It's difficult. You have to pick your opportunities.

The first thing to do would be to check what sort of workplace bulliying legislation is in place. Contact a lawyer for advice.

Publicity about these situations would significantly harm a hospital, and rightly so in this situation.

I can't imagine this hospital is a good place for patients. Eventually someone will make a mistake and someone will be harmed. Hopefully a death will not result. Then it's too late.

The truth will find a way out. It always does. I hope in this instance it is not too late for anyone.

Don't cover for assholes. That's a mistake I often see.

It is not worth jeopardizing your health over a job like this one. There are always options, they might no be obvious.

Depending on the housing market, it might be worth looking at refinancing the mortgage. The spouse needs to be more supportive here too.

Jean

I would like to address my comment to the author, and I hope she can receive it. If you don't see fit to publish this as a comment, then please consider sending it on to her. This is a message from the heart of one "peon" to another.

---

I appreciate the comments above, exploring solutions that involve exposing the system, etc. All that needs to happen, but it doesn't have to be you.

But I would like to say, for you, to you: GET OUT AT ALL COSTS.

You are clearly a smart, courageous woman. I understand why you feel trapped. I understand your indignation, and your rage! I expect that you've worked very hard for the education and experience that enables you to have a job that can pay a mortgage, and you should be proud of that. You've worked hard for your things. But please don't let all of that trap you into this miserable place.

Your story reads like a "battered woman" explaining why she can't leave the man who beats her. And while that woman often has overwhelming obstacles, she MUST reach out, find help, and get out. Would you agree?

Please consider these thoughts as fuel for an escape plan.

1. You have great value, outside of your job, outside of your family. You are, in fact, not a peon at all. Don't let the assholes of the world make you believe it.

2. Sell the house. Or rent ths house? Sell everything. None of the stuff is worth your soul. Rent a tiny place with a hot shower, a bed, and kitchenette, and be free.

3. Do you have any retirement funds? Can you get access to some of this money when you leave? Yes, it's important to save for retirement, but it's also important to LIVE until retirement.

4. Is there temp/contract work in your field? For me, I've found this to be a reasonable option to make some money while staying out of office politics.

5. Can you get a job somewhere else? Your workplace is so horrific. Even though you might not find a good place, it could still be much better, and provide some relief while you plan your next step out.

6. I don't know much about your profession. Is there some kind of "caring" work that you could that could keep a small roof over head and get you away from asshole doctors? It may be "below" your skills, but if you can be happy, isn't that more important?

7. You do not need the permission of your spouse to quit this job. You are being diagnosed with PTSD related to job stress, and your spouse won't "let you" quit? But YOU are the one taking care of the mortgage? What the HELL? Do you know how absurd that sounds? You CAN make this choice for yourself.

8. If you attend church of any kind, this would be a good time to reach out to your community for help in the changes you need to make.

9. It sounds like you have already sought out some couseling help. I hope you have a counselor who could help you plan for the changes you need to make to save your life. Can you take the 6 weeks disability as part of your escapse plan?

Okay, well, I'll leave it at that. One way or the other, I hope things change for the better for you.

-J.


HR Wench

The camera is a good idea. Another option is a tape recorder.

Here is another thought:

Regardless of workplace violence policies (if they have them, they don't follow them) if ANYONE lays a hand on you, verbally or physically threatens to harm you then a CRIME has been committed in your workplace and you have every right to CALL THE POLICE and press charges. Skip management, skip HR and call 911. Then tell management/HR right afterwards IF that is the policy of the organization (usually it is). If they fire you for it you can probably sue and get punitive damages ala whistle blower protections.

Frank Booth

I don't cut nurses any slack.

They leave clinical nursing, go into Medial IT Management and become giant assholes there, only they're not being assholes to other nurses, their being assholes to the IT people.

And yes, I have an axe to grind.

Forex Trader - Retired at 43

Sadly this type of behavoir is not restricted to arrogant out of control surgeons.

I dealt with the same type of behavoir by our CTO who was considered indispensable.

It was only after I and 3 other executives decided to leave that the company wised up and terminated him.

It was my last "job." It was that experience that convinced me to learn to trade currency and strike out on my own. I've never looked back!

~ Max

Patrick

I think the most successful option is to anonymously take it public.

It seems to me that organising a strike or some other group protest has little chance of success mainly because the probability of organising a group of disillusioned, frightened staff is small. Also, if the CEO refuses to take effective action when individual complaints are made by "expendable" staff, why would he/she listen when a group of "expendable" staff take a stand. Furthermore, even if they did take a stand, if they were unsuccessful in effecting change then morale amongst the nurses would be even lower. It would well and truly reinforced amongst them all that they were expendable. Even worse, it might embolden the surgeons even further.

I think their best chance of success is to document this behaviour, film works best, and then post it anonymously to Youtube and alert the media. That way, you reduce the chances of retribution against any one individual and you force the CEO to act. Publically naming and shaming them is a powerful weapon and will have 3 effects: it will bring disrepute to the hospital; it will embarrass the surgeon; and it will embarrass the profession. The CEO will be forced to act to mitigate the first issue. The rest of the profession will get involved on the last issue. Nobody wants their profession brought into disrepute. Peer pressure will quickly bring them into line. Especially if you do this enough times at different hospitals.
You can easily buy small video cameras these days. I don't know whether you can sneak one in to the operating theatre or whether you can position one outside with a view through a window..

Peter Cranstone

Bob,

Thanks for posting that. Life is so short that we shouldn't have to tolerate this kind of abuse.

The problem is that we've forgotten that we are human beings first and we need to learn to get on with each other.

My advice to the nurse would be to move on. You don't need drugs - just a change of scenery.

Peter

Jonathan Kamens

It was difficult to read the abuse. My heart goes out to this nurse and her colleagues.

I know they need the work, but it's never going to get any better if they don't take the risk of standing up for themselves.

The two ways to do that which seem most likely to be effective are: (a) strike (are they members of a union? why isn't there anything about the union trying to protect them in this nurse's story?), (b) take it public.

By "take it public," I mean go to the news media. To do that, there need to be enough nurses willing to go on the record and name names to make a newspaper willing to believe and write about the story. There also need to be enough nurses willing to go on the record to make it impossible for the administration to claim that it's just disgruntled nurses complaining and fire them. And there needs to be enough of a paper trail for the nurses to be able to prove that they've been complaining and their complaints have been ineffective.

Another option might be a complaint with the state agency that handles discrimination complaints. I don't know what state this is taking place in, but in Massachusetts, it's illegal for a boss to create a hostile work environment or for management to tolerate it. Such complaints would be handled by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. It's very risky, though, because the complaint process takes years, and in the meantime the nurses will probably end up fired.

Of greatest concern is the risk that any action they take, whether they are successful or not, will get them blackballed and they won't be able to find work elsewhere in the field.

It's all very disturbing. I feel awful that these people are being put through this, and grateful that they tolerate it for the sake of being able to continue their life-saving work!

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