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Over 40% of trainee and intern doctors say they have been bullied or harassed in the workplace

That’s according to a new report by the Medical Council.

Image: Shutterstock/lenetstan

OVER 40% OF trainee doctors and specialist trainees say they have experienced bullying or harassment in their roles, according to a new report by the Medical Council. 

The Your Training Counts Report for 2017, published today, examines the clinical learning environments, working conditions, experiences of bullying, retention and career plans, and health and wellbeing of doctors on training schemes. 

A total of 41% of respondents said they experienced some form of bullying or harassment in their roles, an increase from 34% in 2014, when the first such report was published.
56.2% of respondents said they witnessed a colleague being the victim of bullying or harassment and 2% of trainees said they witnessed such incidents on a daily basis.

Doctors represented 58% of perceived perpetrators of bullying behaviour, while nurses and midwives represented just under one third of perceived bullying perpetrators (30%), as reported by respondents.

Meanwhile, just under half (48.5%) of trainee respondents in 2017 reported experiencing undermining behaviour from a consultant or GP.

In 2017, 68.9% of respondents who said they reported being bullied and harassed did not divulge the incidents to an authority figure.

However, of the 31.1% who did report an incident, only 8.7% said action was taken.

Reacting to the report, Medical Council president Dr Rita Doyle said “bullying will not be tolerated and we need to reassure our trainees that they can be guaranteed support every step of the way”.

Employers, trainers and policy makers all have an important role to stamp bullying out of the Irish healthcare system. It must not continue, and I would encourage anyone who is a victim of bullying to report it via the appropriate channels within their organisation.

“The Medical Council has a zero-tolerance approach to bullying. It is wrong.”

Working hours

Despite the provisions of the European Working Time Directive, which outlines workers shouldn’t work more than 48 hours during a working week, over one third of respondents reported working 60 hours or more in a typical week.

A good or better than good self-perceived quality of life was lowest among those who worked more than 59 hours per week, with over half of respondents reporting a quality of life that was good or better.

Separately, the number of doctors on the trainee specialist division of the register who expressed a desire to leave Ireland and practice medicine has steadily declined, falling from 21.3% in 2014 to 14% in 2017.

Those wishing to remain in Ireland has increased year on year, from 54% in 2014 to 67.2% in 2017.

Of those considering practicing medicine abroad, almost two thirds were doing so because they felt their working hours in Ireland were too long, and this was the main predictor of wishing to emigrate.

Just under four in five (79.6%) of trainee specialists agreed that the prospect of a better work-life balance was central to their considering practicing medicine outside of Ireland.

Additionally, those that were considering practicing medicine abroad cited a lack of support from their employers (57.8%) as a reason for considering the move.

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has raised concerns over the environment that young doctors work in following the publication of the report. IMO president Dr Padraig McGarry said:

The recruitment emergency in our hospitals is very worrying, and we are now seeing the knock-on effects – with far too many doctors working unsafe hours, a growing mental health crisis, and incidences of bullying that are having a lasting effect on our younger doctors and resulting in far too many adverse events taking place.

“While this report is very valuable, it is not telling us anything new and we must now as a health service make positive changes to support and encourage our younger doctors.”

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