More than 40% of trainee medics feel bullied in workplace, study finds

Qualified doctors and nurses cited as main perpetrators of bullying behaviour

More than 40 per cent of trainee medics report being bullied or harrassed in the workplace, with more than one third working 60 hours or more a week

More than 40 per cent of trainee medics report being bullied or harrassed in the workplace, with more than one third working 60 hours or more a week

 

There is an unaddressed bullying problem within the Irish health service with trainee doctors bearing the brunt of a failure to address the issue, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has said.

Dr Paddy Hillery, chair of the IMO non-consultant hospital doctor committee, said the HSE should “engage immediately” on the issue.

He was speaking as figures from the Irish Medical Council were published showing that more than 40 per cent of trainee medics report being bullied or harrassed in the workplace. However, it said that only one third of those who feel bullied report the incident to superiors, and of those, only 8.7 per cent feel the problem has been adequately addressed.

“There is no point in addressing it nine months or a year later, when they feel they’d been bullied for their entire placement,” Dr Hillery said.

“I think the figures would reinforce that there must be a bullying problem,” he said, adding that underreporting was a problem among those being bullied and also also among those who witnessed the behaviour. More than 56 per cent of respondents to the Irish Medical Council survey said they had seen bullying in the health service.

Bill Prasifka, the chief executive of the Irish Medical Council, said that the report painted a picture of “a health service where there are a lot of stresses and a lot of strains”.

Perpetrators

The study found doctors were the main perpetrators of bullying behaviour at 58 per cent, while nurses and midwives were responsible for 30 per cent.

Dr Rita Doyle, president of the Irish Medical Council, said the information gathered in the report would be used to help improve medical training in Ireland. “While improvements have been made, there is still much work to do. We need to nurture and support our interns and trainees, encouraging them to remain working in Ireland. They are the future.”

Asked about the study, a spokeswoman for the HSE said the organisation was “committed to maintaining a positive workplace environment that recognises the dignity of all employees”.

“All HSE employees are required to respect the right of each individual to dignity in their working life,” she said.

The HSE, she added, has an intensive training plan to develop management skills and prevent escalation of conflict and it has committed to training interventions and set up a 24 hour helpline for staff.

The survey found that one third of trainees work 60 hours or more a week. Some 759 trainee specialists and interns were surveyed by the IMC for the report. Trainee specialists overwhelmingly reported a good quality of life (70 per cent), with 77 per cent reporting themselves as enjoying good mental wellbeing. However, the number reporting bullying increased from 34 per cent in 2014.

Leave

The number of trainee specialist doctors who expressed a desire to leave Ireland and practice medicine elsewhere continues to decline, with 21.3 per cent reporting such plans in 2014 against 14 per cent in 2017.

Those who were considering going abroad reported that the factor pushing them to do so the most was the long working hours in Ireland, with just under 80 per cent of these trainee specialists agreeing that a better work life balance outside Ireland was central to those plans. Some 57.8 per cent cited a lack of support from their employers as a reason for considering the move.

Those who did leave primarily went to Australia. While 58 per cent of doctors who attained registration in 2017 were Irish born, some 81 per cent of the trainee specialists are born here.