Posts Tagged ‘professionalism’

Incompetent Colleagues

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

A study in the July 14, 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association reports on the findings of a survey of nearly 2,000 physicians around the country. The authors, from Massachusetts General Hospital, asked how many of the respondents knew of a colleague who was impaired or incompetent to perform work. The low proportion who said yes (17%) was encouraging, but the proportion who informed the authorities (69%) was also low.

The upshot of the study points to a gap between the recognition of improper behavior and the mechanisms for how to combat it. Those who did not report their bungling colleagues mostly cited reasons like they thought someone else was taking care of the problem or that a formal complaint would have no effect.

Perhaps even more upsetting–though less commented on–was the finding that only 64% of all respondents felt a professional obligation to report impaired or incompetent colleagues. For the integrity of the profession and the benefit of patients, every physician must feel responsible for helping their colleagues. Leadership should ensure that such reports will be taken seriously, investigated, and acted on.

Workplace Violence

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Massachusetts enacted a new law that increases the penalties for assaulting a nurse on the job. Nurses face the same level of risk for workplace violence as police officers and prison guards. EMTs already enjoyed protection against assaults. This law now extends those rules to nurses.

The statistics of abuse horrify. Fifty percent of emergency room nurses reported being punched in the previous two years. In all the news coverage, however, the reports never address who is inflicting the violence. I suppose we are to understand that unruly patients are to blame. Isn’t it also possible that the perpetrators could be other health service workers?

BU’s Medical School has an Appropriate Treatment in Medicine initiative that tracks abuse against medical students. From what I understand, the most frequent culprits are older residents who mistreat younger students. It’s conceivable that nurses face physical abuse from their co-workers. The new law can only hope to have a deterrent effect. In reality, it might still require the nurse to report a supervisor or physician for punishment.