Battling medical bullies has a story out today on ‘medical bullies’ – medical professionals who browbeat patients, ignore questions, act impatient, insult patients and/or colleagues or even yell, cuss and throw things.   Now the Joint Commission, a national hospital accrediting agency, warned that there’s mounting evidence that such disruptive behaviors are tied to medical errors that can cause patient harm — and called on hospitals to adopt a no-tolerance policy.

Starting in January, the agency will require hospitals to establish codes of conduct that define inappropriate behaviors and create plans for dealing with them. Suggested actions include better systems to detect and deter unprofessional behavior; more civil responses to patients and families who witness bad acts; and overall training in “basic business etiquette,” including phone skills and people skills for all employees.

The AMA has had a policy calling for zero tolerance for disruptive behavior for all workers for years.  The Joint Commission standards and suggestions will offer hospitals a clear model for establishing guidelines and consequences that will help decrease disruptive behavior.  Official warn that it could take years however for a major culture shift.

The MSNBC story includes a sidebar on bullying behaviors.  How many reader submissions featured here echo the very same behaviors listed?

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  1. Me

     /  July 9, 2008

    You should see what they say about obese patients on the doctor student forum I came across..terrible, juuust terrible!!

  2. jill watson

     /  July 9, 2008

    well it’s about time!

    I just read this in the New York Times today too…. something needs to be done. We should not tolerate being treated badly then be expected to pay their bill. I’ve heard and seen enough.

  3. fatfairy

     /  July 11, 2008

    I’ve been treated badly by medical bullies, from doctors to receptionists. I stopped going to a general practitioner who was very competent at treating me because I couldn’t tolerate her emotional outbursts and yelling. No one in the office ever told why this was happening, and after a few incidents I was too intimidated to ask. She never acted fatphobic toward me, but I found it impossible to deal with her
    I’ve also noticed that recently, there are a lot of receptionists and answering service people who are refusing to deal with anyone who does not “respect” them. I’m sorry, but the receptionists emotional needs are not as important as a patients life. I talked recently to one such “respect”-demanding secretary at my ob-gyn clinic, which is the only place in town that can treat my menopause from Hell and does many high risk pregnancies. She demanded that I “respect” her or she would not give my doctor a message, said that my call was being recorded in what I saw as an attempt at a threat or intimidation, and when I said “what if you do this do a patient having an emergency” she said “they can call 911”. This sort of self-indulgence could kill a patient, and they think that’s less important that their emotional need to have everyone be nice to them.

  4. Christina

     /  August 1, 2008

    I work for a primary care group and I can name at least 5 doctors that are this way…and scarily, one of them is a pediatric surgeon. I think it has something to do with money and image.

  5. emmy

     /  September 3, 2008

    I had a medical bullying incident, I guess about a year ago. I didn’t submit it here, because I don’t think it was fat related, so much, which is the focus here, but I think this is more an open topic, and it might shed light on the topic at hand.

    I had a migraine. I’ve had them a couple of times a year for about 10 years, and they’re generally manageable, but I didn’t realize I was out of my Imitrex prescription. It was about 6:30 in the evening when I realized it, so I went to the after hours clinic. I explained to the receptionist that I had a migraine and was out of my medicine. The nurse took me to an exam room, turned out the lights, and spoke very quietly taking my history, etc. even deciding against weighing and taking my BP to avoid further discomfort. Up until this point, everyone had been just wonderful.

    Then the doctor came in, turned the light back on and said in his loudest voice “So, you have a HEADACHE?” Migraine sufferers know it’s not just a headache. I told him I had a migraine. He then spent about five minutes asking me if this was the worst pain I had ever had. I was fuzzy and had pretty messed up vision from the migraine auras, and tried to explain that I didn’t understand the question. He asked again if it was the worst pain I had ever had. I said no, I had certainly had them worse. “So, it’s just a regular headache, then.” No, it’s a migraine. I’ve had them before, but I’m out of my medicine. (I think he had already decided I wanted some kind of narcotics, which I really didn’t. They wreak havoc on my stomach.)

    So, he sent me, in pain, barely able to see, to the ER “for an MRI” and warned me he would be calling ahead to tell them I was coming. When I got there, a lovely nurse practitioner asked me (a bit suspicious, probably because of the doc calling ahead) what I normally took for migraines. You should have seen her face when I said “Imitrex.” She actually told me that the doctor had thought I was a drug seeker, but addicts never ask for Imitrex. It won’t get you high. She gave me an Imitrex injection, and a scrip for a pack of tablets, and in 30 minutes, I was back to normal.

    Would it have killed the doctor to just ask what I took?

  6. Catherine

     /  January 18, 2009

    Last April I tore my knee (it’s shorter than listing what was wrong). I was doing something fun but unusual.

    Tiny bit of history- in 38 years I have had mono and needed a grand total of three stitches. I am lucky, as I lead a fairly active life.

    So I can’t get in to see a bone doc til Thurs, so I go to a walk-in clinic. Keep in mind I am in pain and I am totally terrified- I don’t know what is wrong with me, save that I suspect it’s not a bone, but for the first time in my life my body cannot do what I ask of it.

    The receptionists were very nice. The nurse and I apparently went to music school together- she was great! Then the doctor. OMG she was a cast-iron bitch. At first I thought she was just being Old School- she didn’t say suck it up, but all her non-verbals surely screamed it. Also she’s not sure what she can do for a soft tissue injury- I just wanted confimration and faint hope it would be something she might be able to help with. She felt I was too fat for the xray at the clinic and sent me up to the main building across town. Once again, everyone there was very nice, and quite confused that I was sent to them. Most of my extra energy was being used to maintain my usual demeanor, so I just didn’t have time/attitude for much else.

    they called me in for hydrocodone. on a poke and a prod only.

    Then the wait for my Xray results. I called. and called and called and called- btw the office staff was still nice(!). I dig that you are busy, I dig that you may not get to them same-day. 24 hours later I was told it wouldn’t be til Saturday. SATURDAY. Are you friggin kidding me? Thursday we went to their office and got my records from them to take to my ortho. I didn’t like what she wrote in my chart, but I will excuse that because it may have been Drspeak.

    My ortho was AWESOME.

    Needles to say I called the main office of the walk-in’s group and left a lengthy complaint. When Dr. called me on Sat, I gleefully gave out on why I thought her turn around time was totally unacceptable and why she would never see me again. Nicely yet firmly- not as angry as I really was, because then she would have had a reason not to listen to me.

    Turns out the reason I was in pain and fear on her table was a sprained MCL, two seprate meniscus tears, and a compromised ACL. I was not being touchy. I was not excessive. I will not only never see this sorry excuse for a dr again, I have been telling anyone and everyone to avoid her and why. I don’t care if she was Old testament dr., hated women, or, I wonder now, if she feels the fat do not deserve care. Pity she didn’t try to tell me it was my weight, it would have been fun to see if I could have worked up to violence. It would have gotten me past the fear if not the pain.

    Once more I wish the whole world was Planned Parenthood. even when my weight was discussed at PP, it was always sensibly and with compassion.


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