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A physician has exhibited extremely abusive behavior toward me. Should I report him to the medical board and is there a nursing organization that can help?

Wednesday August 1, 2012
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Dear Nancy,

I am an NP working in a small clinic/hospital/ER. A physician who was hired recently has exhibited extremely abusive behavior toward me on two occasions, which were witnessed by a relatively new CEO who since has resigned. The physician is trying desperately to get me fired, which the CEO admitted. None of his allegations has been found to have any basis. The CEO did nothing, and the physician keeps adding more restrictions on me making it more difficult to practice safely. He meets almost every criteria of a "disruptive physician."

I filed a formal complaint after the physician pulled me into a small room, blocked the exit and screamed at me. He is wrong, so I donít want to leave. Heís 64 and will retire soon. I have tried to contact four attorneys in my state but have gotten no response. Should I report him to the medical board? Is there a nursing organization that can help?


Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Saralynn,

This type of abusive behavior, verbal and physical, does not belong in any workplace and should not be tolerated by anyone, including the CEO. Besides being abusive, it also may violate state laws. Placing someone in a room with no means of escape may meet the state's false imprisonment definition. Being placed in fear of physical harm may add an assault and/or battery charge to the MD's behavior. And, if your state has passed anti-bullying/harassment legislation, the behavior probably violates that law.

It is unfortunate no attorney has returned your calls. However, contacting a nurse attorney should get you a response. Go to The American Association of Nurse Attorneys website (www.taana.org) and click on the lawyer referral link. Follow the instructions, and you should see the names of nurse attorney members to contact and determine whether they can handle this kind of situation for you.

You also should know you can report this physician to the state medical board, either with the nurse attorney's help (if he or she advises you to do so) or on your own. At best, this is unprofessional conduct. The medical board will be concerned about such conduct, especially its origin. Is he abusing medications? Does he have a mental problem? Does he need a course in anger management?

You also can file a police report because you have been threatened. You might want to discuss this issue with the nurse attorney you consult. Another option the nurse attorney may discuss with you is filing a restraining order against the physician. As you know, these reports become public information that can be accessed by anyone. They also serve to protect you in the sense that you sought outside help to protect you from this MD's behavior.

The American Nurses Association, among other professional associations, has been active in working to prevent workplace violence. Their website, www.nursingworld.org, has a wealth of information on workplace violence, including bullying tip cards, tools on how to prevent workplace violence and much more valuable information. Just type "workplace violence" into the search bar on the home page, and the information will be listed for you to review.


Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.