The media has been awash with news reports of recent happenings at the Awoyaya Hospital and Maternity Centre at Ibeju Lekki lagos state where Dr Emmanuel Okolo was said to have allegedly ordered a registered nurse to kneel down and went on to slap and beat her with a belt. This is coming barely a week after our senses were assaulted with the story of Dr Ajibola allegedly assaulting a nurse at the Ondo state trauma and surgical centre
As expected, the Managing director of the hospital in company of the Lagos NMA has gone to the media in defence of their colleague, according to him the incident was just a love affair gone sour after Dr Okolo informed the nurse that he wasn’t going to marry her.
This calculated attempt by the MD to justify the reprehensible actions of his doctor colleague and waive the issue off as a love affair smacks of total ignorance on his part and exposes his lack of moral judgement. One wonders whether being in a relationship gives either party the right to batter the other
While I won’t want to delve into the matter since I have not spoken directly to either party, I must commend the Nurse for registering a formal complaint with the police and taking a stand against bullying by Nigerian Doctors in the workplace. She must also take further measures by making a formal complaint with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.
Stories abound of doctors berating nurses, hurling profanities, physically threatening, assaulting them and even throwing stethoscopes, scissors, pens, or surgical instruments at them. In the past five years, there’s has been documented reports in the news media of hostile, aggressive, threatening, and escalating behaviours by Nigerian doctors towards female nurses, not to mention a lot of undocumented ones that have been swept under the carpet and we never hear about.
We seem to be working in a hostile environment and fear for our safety and well being. Our profession is currently plagued by some doctors acting in ways that are disrespectful, unprofessional, and toxic to the workplace. Almost all of us have at one point in our practise experienced Doctors' “condescending, humiliating, malicious or demeaning comments or insults. And by 'all' of us, i mean the females in our midst.
Unprofessional at it may sound, I actually look forward to the day a Doctor thinks or dreams of hitting or insulting me a male nurse, i swear! Until I see I bright red blood, i won’t let go.
Forgive my digression, The Nurse in this case must be encouraged to seek redress in a competent court of law and put a stop to veiling of doctor bullying in organizational silence. To us at Nursingworld Nigeria, this is not a personal fight but a fight for the profession and a deft move to breaking the silence on bullying by doctors in the workplace.
It is all too obvious that the MD intends to shield his colleague by issuing only a query and this in itself has been a major reason why nurses are afraid to report doctors because they believe the medical directors will refuse to penalize their colleague or they might lose their own jobs in retaliation.
These fears I agree are totally justified.
A slew of double standards protects doctors’ jobs but makes nurses vulnerable. Some hospitals have fired nurses for reporting doctors’ inappropriate or incorrect treatment of patients while allowing the doctors in question to continue to practice. But when nurses don’t speak up, there’s a risk that people will suffer or die and patient care jeopardized
It is research proven that intimidating behaviours by doctors can lead to medical errors and harm patients as these God-complex doctors consistently refuse to listen to nurses or the bullied nurse is too intimidated to act or ask questions promptly.
In major private facilities, nurses are bullied by the medical directors into training auxiliary nurses against their will. Nurses are bullied by Medical directors and owners of hospitals into relationships they would normally not go into. Professional nurses are bullied into performing housekeeping and errand duties, including emptying waste, sweeping, mopping patient rooms, washing hospital toilets and bathrooms
The fundamental lack of respect for nurses by Nigerian doctors is nauseating, I am of the opinion that Doctors should be sued and penalized for bullying as this would clearly reboot their brains to best-practice and inter-professional relationships. It would help wipe out outdated traditional doctor-nurse roles rooted in the past.
Lecturers, tutors and school principals must let go of mundane practices such as: nurses, almost always women, being expected to stand when a doctor, almost always a man, entered the room. Also expecting student nurses to offer their chair and open the door so that the doctor could walk through first. This passive training model must stop. Nurses must be encouraged and groomed to speak up and take a stand.
Nigerian Nurses are skilled professionals and educated up to Msc and Phd levels, we deserve respect, appreciation, and a voice in healthcare decisions. We must help build a chain of command without implied levels of superiority and view the various scopes of practice as complementary and equal rather than hierarchical?
We must break this cycle and culture of disrespect doctors portray towards us. We all must play a role in reframing the doctor-nurse relationships so that providers view each other as part of a team working together toward the ultimate goal: better patient care.
About the author:
Nurse Jude Chiedu is a Registered Nurse Midwife, An Accident & Emergency Nurse, A Fellow of the West African College of Nursing and has been nominated two times running for the Nigerian Healthcare Excellence Award (winning one). He is also a blog contributor on NursingworldNigeria.com
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