Doctors Bullied By Doctors: A Manifesto To End Discontent — Dr Yogarabindranath Swarna Nantha

By CodeBlue | 11 January 2021

Work should strictly be viewed as a pedagogical process where seasoned clinicians hand down their wisdom to their enthusiastic underlings.

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“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” – Abraham Lincoln

Bullying changes someone, mostly for the worse. For naïve or “fresh” victims, it robs them of confidence and self-respect. It also steals their ability to express what they have experienced. For the more “conditioned” long-term sufferers, hidden scars transform them into perpetrators of the very act they despised in the past.

The by-product of this vicious cycle is what we currently witness amongst doctors in our nation. Innocent victims turn rogue after having lost their dignity at the hands of another victim. It is a classic case of moral compass gone awry. We have conveniently blurred the lines between harmless “on the job” training and unacceptable bullying.

Times have changed in Malaysia. In the past, full disclosure meant career suicide for doctors, risking costly reprisals from their authoritative superiors. Nowadays, the same course of action is no longer considered dead in the water. In the inescapable age of information, the tightly kept secrecy over such abusive behaviour amongst doctors has gradually lost its grip.

Reports quickly simmer to the surface and see the light of day. Indelible footprints left by their tormentors slip into the hands of the media. Evidence of questionable practices within the medical fraternity makes its way to the headlines. Those who once thought nothing could go wrong in a “sacrosanct” profession are now receiving a painful dose of reality.

Unlike their predecessors, junior doctors refuse to be lulled into silence or tolerate a toxic atmosphere of selective persecution. Their timely defiance unleashes calls for dialogue and recognition of the horrible aftermath of bullying in their organisation.

Gone are the days when predatory clinicians usually remain untouched, immune to the long arms of the law, and often beyond reproach. With the truth laid bare, the government (vis-à-vis Ministry of Health) cannot afford to stay above the fray and turn a blind eye to this full-blown crisis.

We must put an end to the blatant practice of protectionism. The freedom to perpetuate and pass on this abusive culture to the next generation of doctors has to simply stop.

While expectations of radical reforms are, at best, a long shot, we need to devise a much more practical solution to this conundrum. If it’s a struggle to change policies, we could at least change our relationship to these problems. To that end, we should immediately urge doctors to leave behind meaningless strife aimed at scuppering progress.

Doctors have to call a ceasefire to this needless animosity between fellow comrades. Everyone should give unity the top priority. Work should strictly be viewed as a pedagogical process where seasoned clinicians hand down their wisdom to their enthusiastic underlings. These ideals can be put into place only if we commit to the suggested actionable parameters highlighted below:

  • Rehabilitate doctors who, at all costs, are hellbent on imposing the archaic traditions of the “old order” on their more youthful yet presumably disobedient “new order” counterparts.
  • Denounce and hold accountable doctors who love to chip away at identity and crush the voice of reason.
  • Eradicate the false belief that exploitation of vulnerability is a legitimate method of achieving self-development.
  • Make sweeping changes to the organizational landscape that continues to heap praises on the “I had it bad, so must you” siege mentality.
  • Empower an independent professional body to receive, document, investigate, and reprimand doctors who commit these transgressions on their colleagues (and patients) with reckless impunity.
  • Victims should not lay low and condone bullying. Create a united front (a registered society), looking out for the collective welfare of all bullied doctors. Collaborate with other non-governmental organizations and lobby for a bully-free work environment.

These steps, if effectively put into place, creates a system that allows for check and balance. It also potentially eliminates the stranglehold bullying doctors have over their hapless victims. With solutions abound, our convictions are only surpassed by our willpower to do what is right. There is really very little reason to subjugate or force anyone into submission.

It only reflects our inner insecurity because we either perceive juniors as a threat to our fragile authority or revel unabashedly in our over-inflated power trip. We should take heed from the great William Osler – we are here to add to life, not to get what we want from life.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.
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