The Emotional Abuse of Physicians-Part 2: The Characteristics of Abuse

The medical establishment in the United States is extremely toxic to physicians. And the way it treats physicians constitutes abuse. In fact, many physicians in the United States suffer the emotional effects of this abuse, but it is often mislabeled as “burn-out,” “moral injury,” or “compassion fatigue.”

But let’s call a thing a thing.

Physicians, who have suffered at the hands of a toxic workplace environment and toxic workplace behavior suffer from what I call, “The Battered Physician Syndrome.”

Just like in the case of intimate partner violence, physicians in emotionally abusive, toxic workplace environments can experience the following:

  1. Feelings of isolation, anxiety, depression, or helplessness. Many physicians think they are the only ones going through this and often don’t know where to go for help.
  2. Embarrassment/Fear of Judgment. Oftentimes physicians are embarrassed to admit that they are having problems at work and fear that they will be judged negatively by family, friends, and coworkers.
  3. Hope that things will improve.
  4. Belief that they are the cause of the problem. Many physicians have been told that things would be better if they were “more efficient, a team player, more productive, etc.”
  5. Perceived inability to leave the job.
  6. Feeling worthless.
  7. Fear that their current employer can “destroy their career.”

These conditions can manifest in the following ways:

  1. Depression and Anxiety
  2. Insomnia
  3. Physical ailments
  4. Problems with other interpersonal relationships

The first step to treating “Battered Physician Syndrome” is to recognize that it exists, to recognize the presence of toxic and abusive workplace cultures, and to demand that physicians be treated better.


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