18 February 2011


We has a small group lecture on Friday to discuss professionalism. Our facilitator was supposed to have us discuss what professionalism means to us and how we think we learn it, but instead the conversation became a reflection on the tenor of the interactions we have witnessed over the last year in the hospital. We all agreed that by-and-large the demeanor displayed towards patients was very professional. Not always warm and fuzzy, but at a minimum, respectful. The few occasions we witnessed something less were generally in the context of extreme burn out.

What was more interesting is that we witness a lot of unprofessional interaction between medical professionals. The doctor-nurse relationship has been beaten to death in many forums, but it also exists between consulting and primary teams, between different specialties and between levels in the hierarchy. In particular, medical students can be the target of unprofessional, disrespectful behavior; most commonly from non-physicians on the care team. There is something about wearing a short white coat instead of a long one that signals to nurses and scrub techs that it's ok to abuse you or ignore you at will. Maybe it's because in a few months when we graduate we will be their bosses. Maybe it's because we have zero power to retaliate. Maybe it's because we're new and young. Whatever it is, we have all experienced it.

In the end, having a collective bitch session was very therapeutic. We are at a stage in training in which we have no autonomy, no choices, long hours and constant evaluation. Being able to complain to others who understand and don't recoil with a look of disgust at our temporary lack of compassion and empathy was very freeing. And the truth is, everyone else in the world complains about their job, their coworkers and their customers at times. Is it so surprising that we, as (future) physicians, would need to as well?

No comments: