A Call to Physicians: Don't Add to the Culture of Bullying


We've all been there. We have all heard the question, "Do you feel comfortable calling that consult?" We have all been reprimanded by fellows or attendings for not asking the perfect question or not having all of the right information. I definitely feel that it is important to know the pertinent information when you are calling a consult, but let's be honest: sometimes you aren't entirely sure of all the information that the consultant is going to want. Regardless, why does any individual find it reasonable to sound angry or irritated when speaking to a colleague? Why not just ask for the information that is needed and have them call back once they have all of it? I don't quite understand what is accomplished by responding rudely other than creating an environment of fear. Another experience I'm sad to admit I have had involves speaking to an outside provider about a patient in the hospital. This conversation went poorly and it took a turn for the worse when the provider asked me about my level of training. Maybe I shouldn't have taken offense, but I felt attacked because the inference was that my qualifications were far inferior to this attending level provider. I was working hand-in-hand with another attending at the time and it definitely frustrated me. Is there relevance in the level of training when speaking to a colleague? Of course, experience is half the battle in medicine and this provider definitely trumped me in that arena, but at the same time I was working with an experienced attending and I felt confident in the information I was sharing. Asking the question the way that this provider did only upset me and added to a culture of bullying. My worst experience involved speaking to a cardiologist caring for one of my family members. He treated me as completely inferior. I got the sense that he was totally unimpressed because I am "just" a pediatrician. He barely answered my questions. He asked me where I completed my training and where I was practicing in a tone that was far from conversational. Again, what is the purpose of treating a colleague in this way? Why do specialties treat other specialties with disdain? Side note: do you find yourself often using that modifier? "Oh, I'm _just_ the medical student," or, "Oh, I'm _just_ the resident." Why are we _just_ anything? We should be proud of our roles regardless of what stage of training we are in and we should all be treated respectfully no matter where we are in our educational journey. This is a call to physicians everywhere: be nice to your colleagues. Respect your teammates regardless of level of training or place of training. Be nice to individuals who are practicing in specialties other than your own. Rather than creating a culture of fear and doubt, help to breed a culture of confidence and respect because truly, we are all on the same team. _Dr. Cherilyn Cecchini is a pediatrician and a 2018–2019 Doximity Author._

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