Bullying Wars: Theresa Brown vs. ‘the entire physician profession’

By Maureen Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

On May 11, an op-ed piece written by nurse and New York Times blogger Theresa Brown on bullying by physicians caused some physicians to protest (full disclosure: Brown’s honest and moving ethical meditation on a very different topic, “Right Treatment, Right Patient?”, was just published in our June issue).

Notable among her critics was Kevin Pho of the popular blog, Kevin MD, who wrote that Brown “unfairly blames doctors for hospital bullying.” He claimed that Brown uses her writing outlet to “metaphorically bully the entire physician profession.” Another commentary (by physician Ford Vox, writing in The Atlantic Monthly) accused Brown of publicly “drawing and quartering” her colleagues.

Spare me, please. Brown used a recent personal encounter to illustrate a problem that is, unfortunately, commonplace in hospitals.  She used it as a lede and parlayed the story into an insightful piece about bullying in hospitals.  (From experiences I had and witnessed during my clinical years, I actually thought it was a fairly mild example.) Ironically, the strong language used to counter Brown’s commentary made it seem that physicians were trying to bully Brown into silence because she’d spoken out. As if to say: how dare a nurse challenge physician behavior?  […]