Quoted: Threat of termination by attending

Discussion in 'Confidential Consult' started by aProgDirector, Mar 22, 2012.

  1. aProgDirector

    aProgDirector Pastafarians Unite! SDN Advisor SDN Moderator 10+ Year Member

    Oct 11, 2006
    Unfortunately, this is currently a topic of discussion on the resident board also, with several posters (including myself) discussing how the process can be changed to make residents more protected.

    So, here's the deal: If your PD really has your back, then you'll be fine. Chances are, this attending is a jerk to everyone -- including the PD. That means that your PD will need to stand up to him if he starts to make a stink. I can't tell you whether he/she'll do this, or cave in and then create problems for you in the future.

    That being said, I don't see how you can "not work with this attending". What happens if you're on call and one of his/her patients has a problem? How's that going to work? Routine overlap might be prevented, but I doubt you can work in this program without ever working with this jerk again.

    Next, we're only hearing your half of the story. You need to ensure, as much as possible, that the problem is really with the faculty member and not with you. If you really are slow to return pages, pass off work to others, slow, incomplete, lazy, etc then you need some honest feedback. I do see this -- a resident who starts to struggle is often picked out by my most "discriminating" faculty. Others are willing to make excuses -- a new intern, a busy schedule, etc.

    Don't forget about making sure that you're doing OK. Being mistreated like this at work can cause depression, insomnia, etc.

    OK, so what do you do?

    1. Hiring / contacting an employment lawyer is a waste of money. If they terminate you, it will be because they have documented that your performance is sub par. I highly doubt a lawyer will be able to help -- this is not a contract dispute.

    2. You need to document, as best as possible, every conversation (good or bad) that you have with this person. I'd try to recreate the timeline above. As acurrately as you can, as much detail as you can. How long did it take you to respond? How many patients were you managing? Had you triaged them based upon their illness severity? You continue this forever. Every conversation.

    3. You will have regular reviews with your PD regarding your progress in the program. You should request a copy of a written summary of each meeting, and keep these in your own files.

    4. Some have advocated for a pocket recorder to record these conversations. Many smart phones can do this also. Be very careful with this -- wiretap laws are state specific, and you can get in tons of trouble for recording people without their permission or knowledge. This is a question that you could pose to a lawyer.

    5. You'll need to decide whether you want to "play the game". If he pages you again, do you drop everything and call him back right away? Essentially give him what he wants. It isn't right, but sometimes (sadly) it's the best way to address the issue.

    6. You need a plan, in writing from your PD, about how you are supposed to "avoid" this person without getting into trouble about shirking your work. As mentioned above, I'm certain that you and this guy will cross paths again -- best to be prepared (both from what you will do, and what your program expects of you).
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  3. aProgDirector

    aProgDirector Pastafarians Unite! SDN Advisor SDN Moderator 10+ Year Member

    Oct 11, 2006
    Confidential reply from Original Poster:
  4. shopsteward

    shopsteward 7+ Year Member

    Jun 25, 2010
    Walking the dog
    You are being bullied, first by the "chief" resident and now by his pal the attending. Bullies tend to work in packs. It is possible that once the resident leaves (at the end of this year?) the attending will settle down a bit: I hope so for your sake.

    As to how to deal with the situation, apd is right about keeping records. A contemporaneous record of each interaction you have with the attending will be evidence you, and your PD, can use if necessary, and is likely to be better evidence of what is going on than anything the attending would come up with.

    The next thing to remember is that one of the most effective ways bullies work is to induce their victims to change their behaviour in ways which harm themselves. The bully then uses this changed behaviour to further undermine the victim. For instance, the bully makes it unpleasant to talk to them. You then, understandably, avoid or delay talking to them. They then present that avoidance or delay as a legitimate criticism of your behaviour, and as a justification for continuing the bullying behaviour. So be aware that one of the aims of the bully is to try to manoeuvre you behave in self-defeating ways, and that you need to monitor your reactions to the bully so that you avoid this.

    Finally, it is good that your PD seems on your side. You are likely to come out of this OK if that continues. But it would be a great help to you if other staff on the program think well of you too, just in case, for instance, the PD moves on for some reason. And integrating yourself in your cohort of fellow residents would be a good idea too: can you start joining in some of the group activities? After all, these people will be your colleagues for the next few years and your peers throughout your future career. People who forge relationships of mutual respect and support with their colleagues tend to be more successful in the long run than those who are more isolated.

    Finally, make use of any support systems, such as friends and family, that you have away from work. Your current situation may only last a few more months, or may last for the rest of your residency. However long it lasts, leaning on your personal support systems in a difficult time is better than trying to tough it out alone.
  5. aProgDirector

    aProgDirector Pastafarians Unite! SDN Advisor SDN Moderator 10+ Year Member

    Oct 11, 2006
    From the OP:
    I don't expect this to end well. But, you need to take the high road.
  6. dragonfly99

    dragonfly99 5+ Year Member

    May 15, 2008
    Bite your tongue even if the attending yells at you. It sounds like you are a surgical resident so I'm kind of surprised that you aren't used to people yelling and swearing at you (only 50% kidding...).

    You had better be professional no matter what this guy does...and hope he doesn't make your life too difficult.

    And you had better keep your PD on your side...it sounds like he is. If the PD becomes "against" you, you are screwed.
    Better try to make friends with some of the residents in your program too, even if you aren't crazy about them. You might like them better once you get to know them...at least some of them.
  7. aProgDirector

    aProgDirector Pastafarians Unite! SDN Advisor SDN Moderator 10+ Year Member

    Oct 11, 2006
    From the OP

  8. Gauss44

    Gauss44 2+ Year Member

    Oct 28, 2012
    I didn't bother to read this entire thread. I did read the entire topic. If there's any doubt in your mind that you would take legal action, it wouldn't hurt to quickly consult an attorney. A free phone consultation may even suffice. (Remember that if you call a lawyer, they usually ask what your problem is and provide a free consultation so you can decide if you want to hire them or not. The more concise you are, the more information you will get for free.) What they are likely to tell you is to document problems with the date, time, and exact words of the attending (or as close as possible) if he says something inappropriate. You might need evidence of your good performance. Writing down your every move might be excessively time consuming. If it were me, I would ask my colleague buddies if they thought I was slow, etc. Make note of anyone who thinks you have excellent performance. I would also self-monitor. An attorney might advise you to make sure you have a hard copy (in your home) of the employee handbook, conduct codes, non-discrimination, and anti-harassment policies that apply to you. Some would say, "Prepare for the worst, but hope for the better."

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