One in three Irish trainee doctors bullied

More than one in three trainee doctors have been bullied or harassed at work, it has emerged.

Half of the trainees (50%) were bullied by doctors but over a third (36%) said they were bullied by nurses and midwives.

Just three out of 10 trainees reported their experience of bullying to someone in authority, but 40% of those who did felt nothing had happened as a result.

A report from the Medical Council shows that over half of trainees (56%) had witnessed someone else being bullied or harassed at work.

The problem was worse in smaller hospitals where almost one in four (24%) were more likely to be bullied frequently

Patients or their relatives accounted for 8% of bullying experienced by trainees. Bullying from this source increased to 21% for those in GP training.

More than six out of 10 (64%) of trainees did not feel well prepared for the intern year and for 9% of this group, it was a serious issue.

One in five trainees (22%) said they were not offered an induction programme when they started training and 9% who were could not get released to attend it.

One in three Irish trainee doctors bullied

The Your Training Counts 2015 report reflects the second year of data that the council has collected from trainee doctors.

Medical Council chief executive Bill Prasifka said he was disappointed that the reported experiences of bullying by trainees was no better this year.

He was also unhappy that many trainee doctors seemed to be receiving little or no feedback and have poor experience of induction.

“I am fully aware that the issue of bullying cannot be dealt with overnight and a cultural shift needs to occur in this instance,” said Mr Prasifka. “However, an improved induction programme, or the simple delivery of feedback, is something that can, in fact, be achieved quickly.

“If trainees working in a clinical environment are feeling underprepared, it is a patient safety issue and that is why we have decided to do all we can do within our regulatory role.”

He pointed out that there was only six months between the two Your Training Counts reports and they had yet to see if initiatives already taken by post-graduate training bodies would work.

Freddie Wood, a cardiothoracic surgeon and president of the Medical Council, who pioneered heart surgery and transplantation in Ireland, said trainee doctors in his time were seen but not heard — it was very much an apprenticeship system.

However, what he endured 40 years ago — 168-hour weeks and working almost every weekend — would certainly be considered bullying and harassment today, he said.

Prof Wood recalled being told on two occasions by a particular consultant that there would never be a position for him in Ireland. “It’s funny how things change,” he said.

Prof Wood said the report showed 60% of trainees who were bullied experienced it at least once a month, or even more frequently.

He would be very disappointed if, in four or five years, there had been no change in the incidence of bullying reported by trainees.

Prof Wood said the council would continue to produce similar reports on an annual basis as they provide objective evidence for change. He said the council was about to start visiting training sites around the country and the quality of induction would form a specific part of the inspection process.


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