Hospital bullying queried

John Adams
John Adams
Bullying was not rife in New Zealand hospitals to his knowledge, Dunedin School of Medicine dean Dr John Adams said last night.

Dr Adams was reacting to reported comments from a University of Otago medical forum on burnout among doctors which he attended in Wellington on Tuesday.

Forum chairman John Carter, clinical leader of haematology at the Wellington Blood and Cancer Centre, told the forum support among doctors was lacking and there was instead a culture of bullying in the country's hospitals.

Speaking to the Otago Daily Times, Dr Adams said he did not believe there was a culture of bullying but there were "disruptive and autocratic" doctors who made life difficult for others.

One reason a doctor might bully others was through burnout, which was in turn linked to medical error and the quality of care they offered.

Dr Adams, who is also a psychiatrist, said burnout usually arose from stress, entailing physical and mental exhaustion, depression, anxiety, and could cause doctors to distance themselves from patients, to the latter's detriment.

In his experience, most doctors got along with one another "extremely well".

He could not say whether bullying had become less common over time, and could not comment on whether it was a particular problem among nurses or other clinical groups.

Former health and disability commissioner Ron Paterson told the forum that district health boards needed to do more to reduce doctor burnout.

Some estimates indicated as many as 75% of doctors suffered from burnout.


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