What doctors should do – but don’t – when their colleagues are “impaired or incompetent to practice medicine” (via The Ethical Nag)

Carolyn Thomas reports these recent American findings.

Is the situation similar in Australia?
I believe it is, based on my experiences as a Registered Nurse, and more recently, the train-wreck which was the care my mother received in two hospitals last year.

How would you respond as a patient, if you felt your Doctor was impaired or incompetent?
Do you think all natural medicine practitioners are safe, ethical and professional in their delivery of health care?
Would you know where to go, and whom to contact, if you had concerns about a health professional’s ability to provide safe, ethically sound health care?

What doctors should do - but don't - when their colleagues are "impaired or incompetent to practice medicine" There’s an old nurses’ joke that goes like this: Q:   What do you call the medical student who finished dead last in every one of his classes all through med school? A:    “Doctor” But what happens when these docs are eventually let loose upon the unsuspecting public as professionals with the letters MD after their names?  Who keeps an eye on substandard doctors?  The alarming results of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical A … Read More

via The Ethical Nag

2 thoughts on “What doctors should do – but don’t – when their colleagues are “impaired or incompetent to practice medicine” (via The Ethical Nag)

Add yours

  1. Hi Margi
    Thanks for the link back to my site, THE ETHICAL NAG. This morning I was out for a walk with my friend Gail (a retired nurse) who had read this posting too. Her comment surprised me: while I was absolutely appalled to learn that 1/3 of physicians studied do not even consider it their responsibility to report colleagues who are “significantly impaired or incompetent to practice medicine”, Gail’s response was actually surprise that it was ONLY 1/3.

    She said, after decades working in Canadian hospitals, she would have expected that percentage to be much much higher. She describes medicine as an “old boys’ club” that actively discourages “squealing” on one’s peers – much like the military. Soldiers, she pointed out, witness all kinds of illegal or unethical or inappropriate acts, but the culture teaches them to close ranks and say nothing.

    Would that have been your reaction to this study’s finding, too?


    1. Hi Carolyn

      What most shocks me is that the hiatus from my own career as RN, to my Mum’s near-catastrophe last year, was 20 years.
      I observed that in two decades, little has changed in the hierarchical power base which is the medical profession.

      Even more disturbing – perhaps – was subsequently being told by the Director of Emergency Medicine at the first hospital that one RN involved with my Mum’s care had concerns about her medical [mis]management, but had been unable to raise them, for all the usual entrenched reasons.
      The ED Director has told me they are establishing new protocols to enable greater patient safety, similar to aviation industry procedures.
      In a cockpit, if anyone considers the captain is endangering the flight, other members of the flight crew must speak up, and the captain must respond to those concerns. And the blackbox flight recorder captures the whole thing. No response from the captain, regardless of outcome, usually results in instant dismissal.
      Imagine how few Doctors would be left in some institutions if this was the case today?

      At the second hospital, where I have subsequently met the Director of Emergency Medicine, the Directors of Emergency and Surgical Nursing, and the Nurse Unit Manager of the neurology unit, I can say with absolute authority that the Nurses are receptive and appreciative of the need for Nursing to change in that hospital.
      The ED Director verbally attacked me in our meeting for having the audacity to complain about events, as with my background, I should have been “more sympathetic to the needs of his staff” The Neurosurgeons declined to meet me for any follow-up.

      The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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