It’s no wonder to me that bullies are a problem–on the internet, in schools, everywhere. The people that raised the Millenial generation tend to be bullies themselves. Or at least many of the ones that I have been exposed to recently at work. I have often times commented on the patients I met during my general surgery residency. They were often economically disadvantaged, sometimes involved in gangs, occasionally came from jail, and commonly callused towards violence. Yet, they (nor their parents or their loved ones) were ever so blatantly rude. They often expressed appreciation to those of us working around the clock to save their loved ones’ lives. They brought treats and enough lunch to feed an entire floor of nursing staff. Never did they “threaten” to call administration to get whatever it was they wanted when the physician said “no”. Never did they call physician names like “b$%&#” or “brat”. Perhaps they questioned why we were doing something or why their loved one had taken a downturn, but they usually took the time to respectfully listen and process the events of the day.
Then I started working in an environment with a rather large percentage of insured patients and a large percentage of elderly patients as well. Sadly, the children of these elderly patients often cause more problems with their parents’ care than they help. I know they are trying to advocate for their family members, but there are mindful ways of doing so. There is no need to bully nurses, mid-levels, or physicians into getting what is you want. In fact, the nicer you are, the more likely we are to work with you in a more compassionate manner. I’m not sure it’s the entitlement comes with the economic prosperity in the area. Maybe it’s a generational thing. Whatever it is, it’s really appalling.
As I mentioned in my post from 3 months ago, doctors are constantly being bullied online by anti-vaxxers and even “Filthy Frank’s” fans from YouTube. But even the clinic and the hospital are not safe havens from bullies. Unfortunately, I know more and more physicians, providers, and nurses that have been verbally abused by patients and/or their family members. This fact is a substantial contributor to physician burnout/moral injury. We work through the first 30 years of our lives to provide the best care we can to patients, only to be treated like dirt.
I recently had a patient’s daughter call me a “bitch” and a “brat”. She verbally attacked my partner the day before, so I had been warned. She made it a point that the hospital doesn’t get paid beyond the days for which her admission has been authorized. When I informed her that it doesn’t matter to me how much a hospital gets paid (because I’m not paid by the hospital), she accused me of lying. She threatened to call administration when I told her that if we do not have a disposition later that day that we would be forced to choose for her. She dismissed me when I affirmatively answered that I would send my own mother to a skilled nursing facility in the same condition. In other words, she thinks she knows the system and how she can use it to her advantage. All the while, in this customer-service-oriented healthcare industry, sh seemingly believes she has the right to speak to me the way she did. I am expected to take her abuse.
In any other abusive relationship most of my friends and I would be supporting our involved friend and begging them to leave–get out. We would offer them a safe haven. “Stop letting him talk to you that way”, “leave him”, “call the police”. However, in healthcare we have been pushed to stay, to let it slide off our back and not let it get to us. We have been asked to put our own feelings aside for disrespect from those to whom we provide care.
If these are the same people parenting our Millenials and grandparenting the newest generation, they simply expect bullies to exist. They don’t apologize for their behavior. I feel like this generation thinks we, as Millenials, are weak minded for not being strong enough to handle the onslaught of insults we receive–whether from someone at school or someone at work.
This has to stop. We can’t expect physicians to continue providing their best care in a hostile environment. We should be encouraging physicians to leave these abusive relationships, and we should be offering them a safe place to stay until the problem is addressed.
My advice to you:
- Be a nice patient. Be a nice family member.
- Show respect to those working tirelessly to take care of your loved one.
- Leave the name calling for things you do behind closed doors.
- Be an advocate for your family member.
- Be polite when questioning your physicians.
- Unless your family member is an administrator at the very hospital they are admitted, don’t threaten to call administration. That only muddies the water.
- Say “thank you” when the doctor rounds. They are often seeing a minimum of 15-20 patients on rounds and making sure they aren’t missing any of the details.
- If you feel like a team of nurses, a physician, a mid-level, or the receptionist/secretary provided excellent care or took extra time with you/your loved one, don’t be afraid to show a little extra appreciation. Cookies, candy, lunch, even a simple card can make our day.
- Go into an encounter with the assumption that the healthcare team is doing their best to care for you/your loved one. (Don’t assume the worst of motives.)
- Raise your own children to mind their simple manners. Say “please”, “thank you”, “yes ma’am”, “no sir”, don’t roll your eyes, shake hands, etc. Don’t raise bullies and don’t expect your children to put up with them.