19 Sep 2008

Junior doctors report bullying at work

6:44 pm on 19 September 2008

A new study indicates many junior hospital doctors feel bullied at work, often by nurses.

The study, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, was carried out two years ago at the country's largest teaching hospital, Auckland Hospital.

Half the junior doctors surveyed reported being bullied by more senior doctors and nurses - a level comparable to similar studies in Britain and Australia.

It revealed 30% of nurses and consultants were the top ranked bullies, with the most common form of bullying being unjustified criticism of junior doctors.

One of the report's authors, Auckland Hospital director of clinical training Stephen Child, says bullying is partly due to the hierarchical nature of medical education.

Dr Child says the study shows bullying happens mainly to newly graduated doctors, and 80% of those bullied said they were afraid to complain.

However, he says the hospital's harassment policy has been updated since the study, and the hospital is tackling the situation by improving communication among all involved.

Nurses Organisation denies bullying

The Nurses Organisation denies junior doctors are being bullied by nurses, saying a lack of communication is the problem.

A spokesperson for the Nurses Organisation, Glenda Alexander, says communication between doctors and nurses can be testing in emergency situations.

She says language and cultural issues can also affect communication, particularly with overseas doctors who do not have English as a first language.

Ms Alexander says in some cases nurses have had to take on the role of teacher to junior doctors because many senior health professionals have moved to private practice.