Bullying of clinicians rife, survey shows

More than a third of senior clinicians in New Zealand's public health system have been bullied, a major new survey shows.

The survey, to be presented at the Association of Medical Salaried Specialists (ASMS) conference in Wellington today, shows two-thirds of senior doctors and dentists had witnessed colleagues being bullied.

The Southern District Health Board had the third-highest bullying rate.

Tairawhiti and Whanganui DHBs topped the bullying stakes for the 20 boards, while staff at West Coast and Lakes were the least bullied.

Clinicians in emergency medicine and general surgery were the most affected by bullying, while oncology and otolaryngology clinicians fared best, the survey shows.

In a report on its findings, ASMS national president Dr Hein Stander said he felt a ''deep sense of sadness''.

''I knew workplace bullying has been a concern for some time and continues to be an ongoing problem in our public health service.

''However, the high prevalence and nature of it shocked me.

''We cannot ignore the potential impact bullying has on patient safety and care,'' he wrote.

Behaviour described by respondents included violence, threats, intimidation, allegations, gossip, and excessive monitoring of work.

The survey of senior doctors' union members generated a response rate of nearly 41%.

Of respondents, 37.2% said they had been bullied, and 67.5% had seen colleagues being bullied. Only a third of those who had been bullied had reported it to their workplace.

The prevalence of bullying in New Zealand appeared high by international standards, the report said.

ASMS executive director Ian Powell said the union would discuss the survey with board chief executives.

''The prevalence of bullying, coupled with the findings of our previous research into burnout and [clinicians working while sick], is yet another symptom of a health system groaning under the pressure of years of neglect and under-resourcing,'' Mr Powell said.

eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

Comments

What this article cunningly doesn't point out is that this 'bullying' emanates from within --- clinicians are doing it to each other (surgical teams in particular are notorious for their dysfunctional behaviour). Hard, therefore, to have much sympathy...