24 November 2017

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) is concerned by the findings of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists’ (ASMS) study on bullying in the New Zealand senior medical workforce, and encourages employers and colleges to continue their focus on eliminating these unprofessional behaviours.

“It is deeply disappointing and distressing to read the accounts of bullying behaviour set out in the study,” says NZMA Chair Dr Kate Baddock. “While some of our colleagues experience bullying behaviour from patients, most of what is described comes from colleagues—both clinical and managerial—and that is just unacceptable.”

Released today, the study shows that more than two-thirds of respondents experienced work-related bullying of some kind—either themselves or through witnessing colleagues being bullied—with the most common culprits being senior colleagues.

“The stressful environment in which many of our members work—lack of resources, staffing shortages and long working hours—is a contributing factor,” says Dr Baddock. “But there is no excuse. Given that clinical managers, clinical directors and those in leadership positions were commonly cited as perpetrators, work remains to ensure that everyone is held to account for negative behaviours, no matter where in the organisation they stand.

“The recent policy statement on bullying by the World Medical Association, put forward by the NZMA, makes it clear that this is an issue of professionalism. It is not just about how we treat our patients, but how we treat our colleagues. The responsibility lies with all of us to collectively seek a change in culture.

“Our Code of Ethics is also very clear on this: doctors have a responsibility to behave cooperatively and respectfully towards team members, and a responsibility to assist colleagues under stress. This sort of behaviour is bad for individual doctors, for our profession and for patients.”