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What can an RN do who is the target of regular outbursts by one physician at the facility where she works?


Dear Nancy,

I’ve worked at the same hospital for 15 years, with 13 years in its ED. One ED doctor always yells at me and bullies me. A nurse manger witnessed the last flare up as did most of the ED staff and some patients. I wrote up an incident report, the doctor talked to my nurse manager and now I have to have a sit down meeting with him.

I know they will just give him a slap on the wrist and let him go back to work. I feel sick every time I know I have to work with him. I feel very unsafe around him as he’s very hostile when he yells. The most recent time, even the patients felt scared. What can I do?

Mary Lou

Dear Nancy replies:

Dear Mary Lou,

This physician needs some time in an anger management program, to say the least. It is unclear why he is targeting you with these outbursts, but they are unacceptable and should not be tolerated by the facility administration. Has any other staff member been a direct victim of his outbursts? It sounds as though patients are being indirectly affected by this behavior as well.

Another questions is if your facility has a compliance officer and, if so, have you talked with that person? Compliance officers are charged with ensuring no state or federal laws are being violated in the workplace and they should be an ally for you. Will the officer be attending the meeting, along with, it is hoped, risk management, your CNO, the Chief Medical Officer, and others specified in the
grievance policy?

If it is possible in the grievance procedure, you may want to have your own nurse attorney or other attorney present as well. Although some policies clearly state the employee’s attorney cannot participate in the grievance itself, your attorney’s presence may have a more favorable outcome in the sense that if a suit is filed, the attorney has direct knowledge of what went on. In any event, you might want to consider a consultation with a nurse attorney or other attorney who works with individuals in the area of employment discrimination.

For your information, harassment in the workplace can be a type of employment discrimination if it violates certain federal laws, such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines harassment as unwelcome conduct based on the protected classes of race, color, national origin, sex (including pregnancy), age and disability. The conduct must be offensive and become a condition of continued employment or the conduct is so severe or pervasive enough that a reasonable person would consider the work environment intimidating, hostile or abusive (

Your attorney can share with you further information about this unacceptable conduct which, by the way, includes intimidation, insults, put-downs and interference with work performance. Be sure to share with the attorney that the conduct is in front of others, including patients, who are reasonably affected by such actions.



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By | 2014-12-10T00:00:00-05:00 December 10th, 2014|Categories: Blogs, Nursing Careers and Jobs|0 Comments

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