By Rebekah Bernard, MD  | Posted on March 30, 201
While other physicians have reported persecution for speaking out about midlevel care, most are hesitant to share their name or identity due to concerns over losing their job. Marleen Smith, MD, who is using an alias while her legal case is pending, reports that she was bullied and forced to resign from a hospitalist position due to a conversation she had with a fellow physician about her concerns over patient safety.
“As a new hospitalist, I took over a panel of patients from a team of nurse practitioners who were acting independently as hospitalists in a state which legally required physician supervision. I found that the nurses simply did not have the training to provide for the level of medical care that these patients require. There were multiple medical inadequacies and patient safety was compromised,” Smith told me.
Smith reported her concerns to the chief medical officer and says afterward she was ostracized by fellow physicians, threatened with legal action for defamation by the nurse practitioners, and bullied by the hospital into continuing to collaborate with the same nurse practitioners or face punitive financial repercussions. Smith did hire an attorney and currently has a case pending against the hospital. However, Smith remains traumatized by the experience. “I feel as if I have post-traumatic stress disorder over it,” she said. “It still really hurts that I was punished for trying to do the right thing.”
In discussing these issues with colleagues, I have heard physicians report being coerced into “collaborative” relationships with NPs by their administrators as part of their job responsibilities and being threatened with job termination if they don’t comply. These physicians aren’t yet prepared to speak out publicly due to concerns over the legal actions by their employer.
Physicians must continue to stand up for patient safety and the highest standard of medical care for all. Unfortunately, watching our colleagues face job loss, social isolation, and public exposure for speaking out against the trend of allowing lesser quality care in exchange for a higher profit margin will make that a difficult job.Rebekah Bernard is a family physician and the author of How to Be a Rock Star Doctor: The Complete Guide to Taking Back Control of Your Life and Your Profession . She can be reached at her self-titled site, Rebekah Bernard, MD .
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