A recent NY Times article is a good introduction to the pervasive bullying that informs medical training. Sadly, bullies find their way into the profession of medicine and thrive in the halls of the academe.
When I was a resident, there was an attending dermatologist who maliciously picked on one resident a year. He made that individual’s life miserable. The rest of us just kept our heads down and tried to keep out of the line of fire. We rarely alluded to it.
Dr. Ilias Chatziioannidis, a Greek neonatologist, and colleagues exposed bullying in an Athens Neonatal ICU. They found that “the mental health impact on victims and witnesses was severe and support at work was necessary to ensure good mental health status among employees.”
Bullying can lead to feelings of inadequacy and mental health issues in some individuals. Michael Weinstein’s searing and brave Perspective piece in the NEJM, Out of the Straigjacket, should be required reading for all of us.
Wherever you are in your training as a health care professional, it will be important to give some thought to this topic. All of us will be targets of, or witnesses tom bullying behaviors. Some of us may be bullies. For those who are bullies, you can apologize, change behavior and sget help. For the bullied and their witnesses, there is strength in numbers.
It is time for dialogue and action.