Physicians in the United States of America suffer emotional abuse by the medical establishment and many health care organizations as the result of toxic workplace environments.
This abuse often patterns the narcissistic pattern of abuse, and the physician victims often develop what I call, “The Battered Physician Syndrome.”
When a physician finds themselves in this situation, they must make plans to escape.
- Leave after the first time. Physicians must learn to recognize the signs of emotional workplace abuse and leave after the first time. For example, the first time you get called to a meeting with your director and given “feedback”, and you are told that your clinical skills are good but the “nurses, mid-levels, janitors, cafeteria workers, whoever” have an issue with you, but no one can provide specifics about what you did wrong…. leave. (No, I am not being facetious. I know of a black female physician who was reported to her director because she didn’t smile at the cashier in the cafeteria.) This type of “feedback” is harmful because it is based on subjective information and opinions, things that cannot be changed.
When you complain about unreasonable and unsafe workloads and other workplace conditions and are told that you are being unreasonable and that you are the only one complaining…. leave. This is nothing but gaslighting plain and simple. The administrators and directors know about the workload, they know about the work conditions, they just want to manipulate you into thinking that it is normal and that you are the one with the problem.
- Get help. Reach out to other physicians that you trust and talk about what you are going through. As the saying goes, “there is strength in numbers.” Realizing that you are not alone goes a long way towards helping you heal. Also, get professional help in the form of a therapist to help navigate this journey of healing from the abuse and emotional trauma of a toxic workplace environment.
- Develop a plan. Plan your exit strategy and begin looking for another job. You may not want to get another permanent job immediately after leaving a toxic work environment. You will need time to heal and to recover from your ordeal, so plan on taking a few months off between jobs. Consider doing locums in the meanwhile to give yourself some breathing room, that way you can still have some income coming in without the burden of committing to a permanent job.
Leaving a toxic and abusive job can seem like a daunting task. But your path to healing begins with removing yourself from the toxic situation.