The Discriminatory Zone - Part 3

The Discriminatory Zone - Part 3

My commentary on the state of play for Discrimination, Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Medical Profession.

Part 3 – Organisational barriers to reporting bullying

a. Deferring action

The current stance in many hospitals and health services is to await specialist college processes and recommendations to infiltrate into local organisations. While an organisation may adopt college-sanctioned stances towards stamping out bullying behaviours, there is generally a lag between commitment and perceptible action.

My opinion is that we have not seen significant change as yet. This is supported by the AMA Queensland annual health check which is yet to demonstrate improvements in junior doctor perception of the prevalence of bullying and intimidation.

b. Citing inability to progress due to lack of information

I have experienced an exchange with a senior manager whereby the response to an allegation suggested: “If they won’t go on record, we cannot pursue or resolve the issue”. (Hearteningly, another senior doctor replied “Because they won’t go on record doesn’t mean we don’t have a problem here”).

c. Differentiating bullying/harassment from feedback

As per the Workplace Health and Safety Act and the Qld Health Code of Conduct, feedback must be reasonable and must be given in a reasonable fashion.

An example of how this can be done extremely poorly is the following feedback communication (delivered in a text message to a resident by a registrar):

You have repeatedly failed to perform at a level accepted of a doctor (sic). You need to seriously consider the future direction of your life.

This is the hospital where I come when I get sick. If you wish to continue to serve the population that includes my family, you must improve. Your performance will be discussed with my superiors.

d. Delay in organisational processes to ensure that trainee selection processes (including for non-training positions) are robust and transparent

Taking a standardised and overtly equitable approach to selecting resident and registrar doctors is not only a fair and sensible strategy; it also mitigates against claims of favouritism as well as vexatious complaints about unprofessional processes.

Read part 4 – Where to from here?