Whoa! Bad attitude among doctors. Hot button issue.
I got a question from a very fresh doctor who hasn’t become jaded by medicine. So he had this question. “I notice that many doctors, especially higher up in the hierarchy have very bad attitude. Almost to the point where they assume everyone is their slave. What gives? How do I make sure I don’t turn that way?”
Oh, you poor thing! Let me just say my piece before I give any advice. Doctors are a reflection of what they’ve imbibed. Many doctors who are rude to staff have themselves been the victims of bad teachers. Hence, they try to inflict on others the same. They don’t know any different.
Then, there are those who haven’t been much outside the four walls of their hospitals or gone beyond the pages of their textbooks. These are the ones who are petty. The small minded fools who treat their department as a mini fiefdom where all humanity serves to please them. These people are not well read, not well traveled and not well spoken.
That being said, I’ve worked with many wonderful doctors in NYC and South Mumbai who are the absolute best at what they do. They’re the cream of the crop and these physicians with a certain look, an air of command or even a subtle gesture invoke respect without belittling and bullying their subordinates. They are generous with their knowledge, succinct in their censure and respectful to all.
Don’t become these doctors with bad attitude by doing the following:
1.Find that wonderful example
Look for that particular specialist or doctor in your practice or hospital. The one who is well loved and respected. Observe him and learn. Emulate him. Neuroscience has proved that humans learn by modelling. So model or copy this hero. This physician, this humanist without the bad attitude. He is your teacher.
2. Your goal is your patient
People will make mistakes. The clerks will mess up, the interns will fumble, the nurses may slip up. It happens to the best of us on our worst days. But does chastising your staff in front of patients help them? Does treating any of the team like shit help your patient? Your goal is the patient. If your intern doesn’t know the BVAS Score don’t yell the corridor down. It’s not going to help your patient.
3. Foster teamwork.
Team work makes the dream work. I love this statement. Healthcare is a team effort. Multiple people come together to deliver it. To do so in an error free manner, the team has to gel with each other. Hospital errors are far more when physicians and nurses have no rapport. This results in what I call a negative cycle.
Because it develops a kind of them versus us scenario, where the sisters are against the doctors, the interns are against whoever. This in turn, creates bad attitude where the doctor then turns all his hate onto the nurses and staff. Team work takes time. It takes frequent huddles, in person dialogue, communication and trust. Have potlucks, bowling competitions, picnics for the team to build rapport. Team building events does foster teamwork.
4. Build relationships.
As an extension to team work, build relationships. Get to know all the players on your team. If someone’s ankle hurts, try and reduce their standing time. If a nurse is slowed down, can you or someone else be assigned to give them a hand? It’s not about saying hi and enjoying long conversations.
It’s about picking up the slack, helping someone through an off day,encouraging someone when they’ve made a mistake. It’s about showing that you’re there for your staff. I find eating meals together also helps. I like shifts of meals. So two nurses and two residents go and eat together while the next batch then sits together, instead of all nurses or all residents lunch together. I find the latter usually devolves in gossip of the other group.
5. Don’t ignore opinions.
None of the people you work with are idiots, remember that. Nurses, med techs, midwives, everyone have certain experiences and knowledge about healthcare. You may not always agree with them. Sometimes there’s more to what they’re saying. After all, they’re on the floors all the time. They’re watching patients and families. I’m often surprised how many times my nurses have alerted me to something in the social structure of patient’s families which led to some important discovery. Listen to them.
6. Remember your own humanity.
It’s very easy especially if you come from a doctor family, where your friends are doctors, their children are doctors, your neighbors are doctors and you’re in your tiny doctor world, to forget that you’re going to be a patient someday. You’re just as frail and just as human as everyone else. You’re not better than others.
7. Realize that being a doctor is a privilege.
You’ve been given responsibility . It’s a mighty privilege that someone has placed their lives in your hands and trusted you with intimate information about themselves.
8. Hang with the happy crowd.
I’ve realized this early. If you have to pick a side, pick the happy one. Because the always complaining, always sad, always finding the worm in the apple, crowd do perpetually look for worms and find them. Bad attitude is contagious. Spend time with a doctor who curses and swears and by the end of the month you’ll be doing it too. I’ve watched residents who flip in one month and the transformation is shocking.
It fixes everything.
9. Respect time.
Bullies and gunner docs usually get this perverse pleasure when one of the team is still not done with their work for the day. I’m an average Jane, so I hate when it happens. Something I learnt from my training in the Philippines: the service finishes together.
So if by three o’clock I know my team member won’t finish, then the team splits up the work so that the service is done at five and everyone can go home. The patient is the goal. Don’t be the dictator that tells the intern to start typing up a discharge summary as he’s packing his bag to go home.
10. Live a little.
Build a life outside of your hospital where you can vent bad attitude. All of us get swept in it. Things happen, words are exchanged and fingers get pointed; but don’t vent on your colleagues, peers, subordinates or worse your family.
Kick-box, run, swim, dance, do something where you can take it all out. A hobby or a craft or a sport. Anything. There’s more to your life than just delivering healthcare. Don’t pass through life. Live it.
Bad attitude is contagious. How do you deal with doctors who have it?