Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Musings on bullying in health care

Stay tuned: Revisions are likely to occur
Today, the last day in February, is #pinkshirtday in Canada, a day to stand up to and prevent bullying of any kind. Taking a stand against bullying with pink shirts began in 2007, when on his first day of school, a student wore a school pink polo shirt and bullies called him a homosexual for wearing pink and threatened to beat him up. Two other students decided enough was enough and began a 'sea of pink' campaign.

Earlier this month a biomedical scientist (aka clinical or medical laboratory scientist, medical laboratory technologist) working as a senior manager in the Haematology and Blood Transfusion department of a hospital in Dumfries, Scotland was suspended for 18 months after a campaign of bullying abuse, creating a 'culture of fear' in the workplace for over five years (Further Reading).

The full transcript of the UK Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service hearing of the Registrant's case is online (Further Reading). The Allegation, Finding, Order, Notes are well worth reading.

ALLEGATIONS
Just a few of the many allegations made against the Registrant:
  • Said to colleagues in the blood bank, 'Am I talking a foreign language?! Or am I working with a bunch of  f*cking thickos?!'
  • Referred to a colleague's flat shoes as 'lesbo' shoes.
  • Sent a text message to a colleague describing another  colleague as '‘a f*kin lying *rse wipe sh*te'.
  • Asked a colleague to sign off his competency log despite the fact she had not witnessed his competencies. 
  • In the presence of another colleague 
    • Referred to a colleague as a 'b*tch' ;
    • Threatened to slash a colleague's tyres; 
    • Referred to having a 'hit list' of people he would pay back. 
DELIBERATIONS
The Registrant did not attend the hearing despite five months notice and instead submitted a written response to the allegations. Some he denied and a few he sloughed off a merely banter. All but one allegation was found to be proven. The witnesses were found to be credible.

The issue was whether the proven charges of serious professional misconduct, including dishonesty, and creating a “culture of fear” were enough to be stricken off the Registrar or if some other sanction should be applied. Be aware that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish, but to protect members of the public and to safeguard the public interest.

The factors considered by the panel as mitigating factors are fascinating and informative. One that struck me in particular:
  • The Registrant’s increased workload appeared to increase his stress levels and cause a deterioration in his workplace behaviour.
Increased workload is a reality for clinical labs everywhere these days and has been for decades. Under the umbrella of cost effectiveness and cliches like 'working smarter, not harder', staff have long been expected to do more with less. Does it create stress? Of course, but I'm unsure that's a valid mitigating factor for abusing staff.
In Canada, CSMLS's CEO Christine Nielsen has said that 35% of society members report feeling stressed or burned out on a weekly basis while on the job (Further Reading). Educating new staff becomes difficult as finding clinical placements in short-staffed laboratories becomes increasingly onerous. The situation is complicated by an aging workforce and is likely to get worse before improving. 
The news item reveals the hearing's outcome, an 18 month suspension. To me this case is an ideal candidate for teaching professionalism to students in all health disciplines. If you are like me, you've experienced and witnessed bullying and unprofessionalism at work.

Sad but it happens in health care more often than we like to admit. And how often do we do something about it, given those bullying are usually in positions of authority?

As always, comments are most welcome. We have some - see below.
FURTHER READING

Dumfriesshire scientist suspended for 18 months for bullying staff (13 Feb. 2018)

UK Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service hearing (Jan. 29-Feb. 2, 2018) | See Allegation, Finding, Order, Notes

Medical lab technologists across Canada feeling the pressure of high job vacancies (15 Feb. 2018)

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:45 PM

    So often we just don't know what to do when we see or experience bullying. I like the suggestions at these two sites:
    https://www.themuse.com/advice/3-workplace-bullies-and-how-to-stand-up-to-them
    http://catherinescareercorner.com/2011/04/26/deal-with-a-bully-at-work-see-these-7-tips/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thx, anonymous.Yep, so often a person gets bullied they don't realize what went down until later. Often the bully's tactics are couched in language that makes it hard to confront them with, 'You did this.' Response is all innocence, 'No I didn't. What are you talking about?'

    Invariably, the bully is in a position of power. Based on my experience, they're cowards and would never try this poop on someone equivalent in the food chain or above them.

    It's also difficult for a third party to intervene because the person being bullied may not want this, believing it's them who will pay in the end.

    Thanks. I've made your sites hot links:

    1. 3 workplace bullies

    2. How to Deal with a Bully at Work: 7 Tips

    I really like 'Bully’s behaviour' in the 2nd & suspect we've all see these behaviours, perhaps experienced them.

    Cheers, Pat
    PLC website

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.