Violence in the Medical System

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about what to do when the doctor yells at you. I got a few comments. Then I forwarded a post about rude parents in the hospital; I received many more posts, specifically noting the miserable treatment those people had received at the hands of rude, sometimes, mean, doctors.

Then, tragically, last week, a disgruntled, mentally ill patient set a nurse on fire in a community clinic, ending her life. Medical personnel, in protest of the rise in patient violence against doctors and nurses, conducted a one-day strike.  There were many who were frustrated with this interruption in service, understandably. After waiting months for an appointment, to have it canceled last minute for a strike is frustrating.

So, I felt it is time to bring some facts to the table.

Violence against medical staff: For the past five years, reports have shown that there are approximately 1,500 cases of violence, 1/3 verbal, 1/3 physical again all types of medical professionals. There are approximately 350 cases each year where a police file is opened.  The government has created a task force, allocated funds, and extended additional security forces and training to combat this issue, a known international problem.

Rude parents: As is noted, abuse on the part of the patient toward the provider is a real thing, and verbal berating has the ability to lead to physical violence, as well as reduced provider functioning, lower quality of care, and future reduction of adequate providers (fewer younger people are choosing nursing and medicine as careers).

Provider shortage: There is a known nursing shortage, which is only getting worse.  We have an acute shortage of paramedics and a lack of anesthesiologists.

Need for health advocacy: Enter new olim. We don’t speak the language; we don’t understand the system. I had a doctor tell me once, “Are you done asking your questions, because I’m done with you.” We feel victimized, misunderstood, and helpless.

I have worked in Israeli healthcare for the past 20 years.  Obviously, there are flaws in the system. There are also incredible successes and quality healthcare delivery.

Taking all the above factors into account, how do we navigate this difficult path most effectively?

The following are my ten commandments for a successful patient/provider interaction:

  1. Remember that the provider in front of you is a person, with frustrations, conflicts, and a family.
  2. Always come with your questions written down.
  3. Try not to lose your patience.
  4. Repeat your request again, if not registered by the provider.
  5. Wait till s/he finishes typing before you ask another question or offer more information.
  6. Don’t forget to say thank you.
  7. Smile.
  8. Do not start off confrontational (ex: ‘you told me’…or ‘you didn’t…)
  9. Do not challenge their medical knowledge with information gleaned from Dr. Google.
  10. Take a deep breath, smile, and repeat.

4 thoughts on “Violence in the Medical System”

  1. So true.
    I would add how important it is to educate people especially our children to be polite. Politeness can open so many doors that arrogance slams.
    In addition I suggested to olim to speak in English. Most people especially doctors are expected to speak and know English. Being the one speaking your native language is always empowering.

  2. thanks aviva. I am working my way through Dafna Meir’s newly-released biography, and one of the most terrible moments in the book is when she describes working with a verbally-abusive family (whose son is catatonic following a car accident involving drunk driving and reckless behavior). At one point during his hospitalization, Dafna actually resuscitates the son back to life, and the family attacks her as if she was to blame for his “death.” Dafna presents a lot of positive, gratifying moments from her nursing career, but this story about the abuse she suffered really brought home what a tough job being a nurse often is.

  3. Violence spawns violence

    I punched a medical staff in the face.

    How many times have medical staff been violent to me physically? 8.

    1 to 8. I feel I have the moral high ground.

    My case is indeed special. I come from a family of doctors. Any polite arguments ends up violently medicalised.

    One punch in the face compared to what I’ve experienced personally and compared to what my extended family endured, honestly, that’s more than fair.

    Medical child abuse is no fun.

    Wake up: medecine itself is violent. No need to play naive.

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