The Me Too movement (or “#MeToo“, with local alternatives in other languages) spread virally in October 2017 as a hashtag used on social media to help demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace It followed soon after the public revelations of sexual misconduct allegations by major celebrities and people in the news.
The phrase was previously used in this context by Tarana Burke and was popularized by Alyssa Milano when she encouraged women to tweet it to “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem”.[ Since then, the phrase has been posted online millions of times, often with an accompanying personal story of sexual harassment or assault. The response on Twitter included high-profile posts from several celebrities, and many stories of sexual violence and/or abuse.
So why here, why now? and what’s the point of it all?
To be honest, it is something I thought about for quite a while, not isolated to sexual abuse/assault, but as well, the moments we all witness or are subject to when an Operating Room gets hostile, or a Surgeon “loses it”. And it doesn’t just have to be isolated to MD’s, certainly I have seen many colleagues or co-workers become untoward or verbally aggressive. I’ve had a Chief perfusionist rip a PICU door off the hinges because of an emergent, unscheduled ECMO coming in off the horizon. he was a piece of work though- always pissed off- had a tubing leak in his roller-head after he blew up his cardioplegia- and ordered me to dump a full liter of NaCl right into and on top of the pump head. I told him I thought it was a mistake- certainly was worried about an electrical short. Of course there is nothing like having your Perfusion company owners take the staff out yearly for the annual company Christmas dinner- watch them get totally shit faced drunk, and slowly turn into complete jerks, threatening jobs and firings, abusing people verbally, and the inevitable “forgive me” text the next morning. It goes on and on.
I Have in the space of a month spoken with 4 different female colleagues, and their descriptions of unacceptable advances or behavior. When weighed in tandem with the other types of verbal abuse we face in the medical arena, I thought it would be appropriate to develop a survey to see if what I suspect is true- that many others like myself and my female cohorts, deal almost daily with some pretty tough and disturbing situations. It may not always be sexual assault, but a lot of situations we endure cross the line to some form of abuse- one way or the other. The shared encounters ranged from gender discrimination (professional advancement issues),unwanted drunken kisses, to getting pressed against scrub sinks, to rape. I only brought it up to 4 female colleagues, and was at 100% in terms of shocking responses.
I named the survey #PerfusionToo!, not to jump on any bandwagon, but because I am a perfusionist, and yes, I have experienced some pretty messy stuff, that regardless of what the circumstances were/are- should never have been articulated or expressed the way they sometimes were/are. But this survey is really meant for any and all Healthcare Professionals out there. We are all in this together, and the more responses we have, the more cogent becomes our ability to formulate a prevention strategy or solution(s). Status Quo is not acceptable- period!
Please take this survey if you wish. Articulating the truth as you see it- can only happen when you confront issues that affect you, diagramming them in such a way that the muddy waters that tend to smooth over sharp edges, are effectively erased to reveal the raw wounds they cover up. This Survey, is designed to do just that. Confront the sharper edges of what hurts you, and strip away the self-defense mechanisms you have developed to protect yourself…
THIS SURVEY IS 100% ANONYMOUS Your Privacy is Assured 🙂
Click Image Below to Take This Survey
Anonymous Responses: Ripping off the band-aid …
- Frank Aprile, I commend you for posting this and developing a survey. Thank You. As usual, your writing is stellar: bold, relevant and from the heart. Your experience is articulated into a project to motivate all of us to make a difference for ourselves, for others, for our profession and therefore our patients. Thank You.
- I was put in a situation with a male coworker where he was able to RAPE and physically beat me in my own vehicle and then use it to hold over me so I couldn’t tell anyone. He was best friends with my boss, and would intentionally lie/create situations to ensure I was seen as a failure. My own boss was emotionally abusive due to this. He was so cruel, so mean that before I finally quit- I considered suicide. It was truly that bad. I didn’t even know who I was anymore.
- Boss would verbally abuse juniors (self included) in OR . I confronted him in his office and bluntly stated that he would get a taste of his own medicine in public. Abuse stopped . I progressed in my field and left after 8 years to start my own center
- I resigned
- I quit and moved my entire family.
- Made to feel incompetent and worried about being fired because of my gender by a cardiac surgeon that was backed heavily by admin. Several staff he brought to the hospital commented “dr xyz does not like female perfusionists” A sales rep said “boy I feel sorry for you girls and the way he treats you” as the sales rep witnessed how this dr was treating the female ccp on the case that day and this rep was making money with a new account and still saw the truth about the doctor…met a perfusionist that had worked with this dr during his training and confirmed “dr xyz is harder on female perfusionists” I voiced concerns with the periop director because our perf dept was 80% female…her response to my concerns was basically keep quiet or you’ll be accused of slander…It is mind boggling that this behavior is tolerated in 21st century healthcare.
- I have been a ccp for almost 28 years and I have worked with many cardiac surgeons. It seems as though these tyrannical cardiac surgeons are more of a recent development and are more the norm than exception. I never encountered these beasts in the first 21 years of my career. I remember the days of respectful surgeons that valued perfusion’s contributions and input regardless of their gender. I miss the days of working with these charismatic surgeons that inspired you to want to do your best instead of beating you down because of your gender or personality conflicts or any other lame reason they have. These difficult surgeons are workplace bullies and they are creating hostile working environments and it is tolerated by hospital administration. Maybe joint commission needs to look at this and how it can influence patient outcomes. They should be looking at this sort of thing and not worry about what kind of scrub hat is worn in the OR. I wonder how a patient would feel about their physician if they knew how they acted when the gown and gloves go on.
- Eileen Heller-Stading There is so much more of this that continually goes on….. and some think it is a right…of some sort. You may just be scrapping the tip of the iceberg…
- Thank you….can’t wait to see the results.
- It’s something that has always bothered me that the abuse by physicians are just accepted with a ” well that’s how they are” attitude. Hopefully the results of this survey can lead to sonething bigger, forcing some introspection. Unfortunately untill administrators and joe public stop treating the as gods feeding the complex, I don’t see a change soon.
- I honestly feel that the perfusion contract company mentality has given many physicians the green light to degrade and belittle perfusionists. I have been told of several instances in which there were conflicts between surgeon/perfusionist at contract perfusion hospitals. The answer to the conflict: terminate the perfusionist to appease the surgeon and keep the account. It’s incredible how difficult it is to be a practicing perfusionist today. Many are treated as disposables despite the looming perfusion shortage. The short staffing is passed on to the team to suck up with no compensation and no work/life balance. I’m hoping I can survive the few years I plan on working.
- The job is inherently stressful enough without adding the layer of verbal abuse and feelings of disrespect. Lately I went to surgeon to discuss an applicant for new position. He told me he’d give me ten seconds to tell him.
- Hannes Engelbrecht Glad someone has brought this to light. Currently working with a fantastic team/family, differences are addressed in a respectful way as equals. Over the years I have worked with some people that I wouldn’t want to work with again even for double the salary. Some argue it’s because they are stressed and care about the pt wellbeing, though I would bet my lifesavings that more often than not it has in some way negatively impacted the pt. Especially with juniors or “lower ranked” roles in theater I have seen people hiding mistakes by not speaking up, because, although they are not at fault, they will get verbal abuse due to frustration caused by often a small but important problem eg. Air in venous, accidentally contaminated a product while opening. High line pressures, cannula positioning etc
- The government fails victims just as much as the rest of society. I took all of the correct measures to ensure the proper consequences for the rapist. Immediately called 911, went to hospital and got rape kit, pressed charges. I was treated as the guilty party by the grand jury. Questions were asked as to find my motive to “ruin this guys life.” Such as have I been to counseling and did I have a boyfriend. He was ultimately found not guilty. He couldn’t say it didn’t happen because of the rape kit. He said I wanted it and they believed him over my story, obvious signs of fear, and tears.
- I had a female chief perfusionist that constantly talked down about me and made comments to other staff about my family, children, marriage, etc. She claimed I was jealous of her but in reality she must have been jealous of me. Her reputation in perfusion is well known and I have never heard anyone say one nice thing about her except for the two women that are her brownies. I’ve heard about her wrath and lack of professionalism from many perfusionists.
- Long term abuse by particular surgeon and particular anesthetist who intimidated the entire team around them.
- I kicked a trash can across the room after a surgeon yelled at me one time. I told him I was turning off the pump sucker since protamine was more than 50% in. He yelled at me saying HE WOULD TELL ME WHEN I COULD TURN OFF THE SUCKER! He wasn’t even using the sucker at the time and there was not a bleeding problem. He told me to turn it off 5 seconds later.
- Transferred to another academic hospital in Capetown. Fantastic team, where everyone is treated with respect and differences are addressed in a professional and positive way to maintain the good team spirit in our cardiac theater
- I was planning to work 3 more years but I really can’t stand my job anymore. Trying to hang on for another year. Can retire anytime but financially best in 3 years. I may have to scale back financial quality of life due to being unhappy at work.
- You won’t find many comments here simply because the Medical Profession does not condone or encourage speaking honestly. I no longer have the sword of Damocles suspended over my neck waiting to snuff out my Professional life as so many of you do. Although, I’ve never let that threat tie my tongue during my career, I will respect the right of others to remain silent. First, I’ll state what we all know. Cardiac Surgery is a tough business. Surgeons, Anesthesiologists, Perfusionists, Scrub Tech’s, and Nurses are all under enormous stress from the need to approach perfection on a daily basis. Those demands are requisite, and anyone who has pursued any of the aforementioned Professions knew the demands on entry to the Profession. When the life of a patient is dependent on exacting execution of tasks, there is little room for error. I have, on occasion, seen those who are not up to the task and quite honestly, do not belong in such a demanding environment. That includes all of the Professions I mentioned above. However I have to say that, for the most part, all of the Professionals I have dealt with during my career fell within the boundaries of competence. But NOT all! This begs the question. What is suitable behavior, including speech, when the performance of a team member is not up to expectations? I was fortunate to have worked with individuals who were excellent in capability and comportment. I was also cursed with having to work with those whom I believe had no business being in an operating room, regardless of their Credentials. Dr. Cooley had a wonderful saying, “Just because you have track shoes doesn’t mean you get to run in the race”….I couldn’t agree more. Interestingly, those who demonstrated excellence were also the ones who capably handled any untoward events during a procedure without losing their cool. They had “the right stuff.” That doesn’t mean they never elevated the tone of their voice to highlight a sense of urgency. It means they never crossed that obvious line that is apparent to all, and engaged in derisive, insulting, demeaning verbal and very audible attacks on the intelligence or capability of other team members. Unfortunately there were a minority of Professionals who did cross that line, and I never understood how that behavior was so easily accepted and allowed to be repeated over and over and over. Institutional politics plays an enormous role. Tradition and culture even more so. Many a department has had a plethora of high performing individuals who simply have resigned and decided to work elsewhere rather than risk being placed in a room with a Surgeon who, from the beginning to end of a procedure, engages in personal attacks, insults and disrespectful behavior. The behavior of that type of individual, no matter how skilled, results in a steady turnover of other team members which negates any advantage his/her technical skills offer a patient. Make no mistake, turnover hurts patient care and outcomes. This behavior is not limited to members of the Operating room. For Physicians, It begins in Medical School and continues through Residency and into Practice. Other Professions, model the Physicians that they have worked with who exhibit this toxic behavior and become the vectors that make it self perpetuating until the entire Medical environment has a degree of contamination, and if not corrected becomes part of the Institutional genome. So, what does one do? First, no matter which rung you occupy on the Professional ladder, you are not helpless. You have recourse and you must set aside your fears and recognize that inaction will only sentence you to a work environment that is worse than unemployment, it literally may cost you your health, sanity, or life. Fight back! Secondly, a greater emphasis on cultivating a team environment in Cardiac Surgery is desperately needed in some institutions. The medieval hierarchy that persists in some Institutions where the all too frequent form of communication is sarcasm and insults needs to be snuffed out with the urgency one would take in isolating and attacking a lethal virus. Because the results are no less deadly. The term “disruptive” has become part of the vernacular of the business world over the recent years. Are any of the Professionals in Medicine really happy with what they deal with on a daily basis? Some of you are, but far, far too many are living lives of dissatisfaction and frustration. So many of you really are the best and brightest, and collectively you have unrealized power to alter the present trajectory of Medicine. ROCK THE BOAT!….become disruptive.
- One surgeon that I worked with blatently would degrade anesthesiologists and Perfusionists. He would make racial comments, be passive aggressive and generally demeaning. I chose not to work at that hospital long term. The surgeon was eventually terminated for bad behavior.
- Don’t engage or participate in the bantering
- Admin in hospital I work at is afraid surgeon. Surgeon is recovering alcoholic and uses it for excuses. Surgeon needs a month long attitude adjustment camp
- When I was doing vacation relief at a hospital, it became clear that the surgeon wanted to test me to see how much abuse I would take. I told him that I would be working with him for the next month and we could work together as team members or we could work against each other. But that we still had to work together. He started treating me appropriately from that moment forward.
- Took mindfulness training and psychological self help to try get my own head around work stress and abuse. Was of significant help in easing my own psychological trauma.
- Not all surgeons/doctors. Many are very pleasant. Just a proportion of bad apples.
- Surgeon enjoys being the saver of the day. Sets every one up for failure with psychological b s questions only to make himself look better smarter or let’s people have when they have no answers or gives the wrong answers
- I have worked in hospitals where doctors acted like they we’re entitled. These in hindsight, were insecure people. I currently work at a hospital with very intelligent, professional doctors. We are on a first name basis and treat one another with respect. I recognized a good team only after working with bad teams.
- Surprisingly the individuals deep down inside are very nice people but could be incredibly abusive and bullying in the work situation and worked in tandem in their approach. I can understand their levels of stress and demand for perfection but then aren’t w we all under those demands. Fortunately I am essentially retired from this now. Suggest you look up Dr Fridays studies on our Profession he did in 1970’s and 80’s.
- I helped to recruit a Director of Perfusion because I was not able to handle the passive aggressive behaviors of a perfusionist I had hired. The director then hired another perfusionist who was his “best friend”. He and the other team member were trained at the same school. We had differing opinions of perfusion practice. Rather than discussing differences and coming to a consensus based on the current literature and AmSECT Guidelines, I was ridiculed for my practice and ganged up on by the “boys” they brought the male anesthesiologist in on their theories of low flow perfusion and heparin concentrations being hogwash. I was made the outsider and the constant recipient of passive aggressive behavior and belittled repeatedly. The Director finally left because he could not get me fired. The passive aggressive behaviors still persist by the perfusionist I first hired who is also known for his immaturity at the work place and for getting another allied health professional pregnant and on going drama of their on again off again relationship. There are stories I could share from my past experiences, but those are over and this is the current problem. I am 59 and never dreamed I would be experiencing this.
- Hear what the surgeon said about you during case from those scrubbed in at the table.
- I left this job of over 25 years…took pay cuts, financial set backs, living away from family, all to escape this surgeon.
- I quit. Moved to new job and left my family and dream home.
- I find the verbally abusive and belittling surgeons are the fakiest. The down to earth genuine compassionate physicians are the most dedicated and selfless physicians and have the innate quality to earn the respect of the other members of the team just by being themselves.
- We would get students and other guests to observe surgery….the surgeon had a routine of starting up a conversation with leading question to “feel out” the persons willingness to have a sexual conversation. Often very graphic and suggestive talk, but never medically based on the surgery being observed. Purely entertainment for the surgeon, anesthesiologist and certain team members. If the person was unwilling to participate, they would be ignored…..but sexual conversation would be carried on and the guest had to stand there and endure this embarrassing and intimidating gutter talk.