I am a pediatrician in a training program at a medical school to become a specialist. One of the faculty members of our division refuses to answer his pager or phone when he is on-call for our specialty service. He is on-call about one week out of five. He does not answer pages from the emergency department, the residents working on the wards, the clinic, nor does he answer his cell phone or home phone. As a result, I am frequently called whenever (which is usually) he doesn’t answer the pager or phone. Bear in mind that these calls are almost always regarding the care of one of our patients. Numerous written complaints have been sent from the emergency department and others to the chairman of our department regarding this issue. Additionally, several people have complained to the chief of our division (who reports to the chairman).
The response has always been that this person would be “talked to,” which has resulted in no change in his behavior. He also does not complete all of the chart documentation for many of his patients (such as writing the drug prescribed and the dosage). Our clinic starts at 8:00 pm and he does not arrive until 10:00 am, which he always blames on traffic. I have spoken numerous times to our division chief, who tells me he can’t do anything because this person is tenured.
I feel that many patients are having their care compromised by this person’s actions (or inaction). I have tried to speak with him personally about the issue and told him how difficult it makes it for other people to do their jobs and to assure that people are receiving appropriate care. I think I was very calm and kind during the discussion, but he got mad at me, threw a fork on the ground, and started cursing. He is 63 years old and keeps saying he wants to retire, but he needs to get his 401K built up, so he may be here another 10 years. Other people who have worked here for a long time tell me this behavior is not new; he has “always been this way” and he’s worked here for 25 years.
I am leaving soon because my training will be complete, but I feel guilty leaving without seeing that something is done to prevent people from getting sloppy care, or in some instances no care. Do you have any suggestions?
I am a big believer in the principle that if your manager won't manage -- and if no one above him/her is willing to force the issue -- there's very little you can do, and you need to either resign yourself to the problems continuing or leave for a new spot where managers are willing to do their job. This question brings a new spin though, because it involves patient care and tenure. I'd love to hear from readers with experience working in medical settings -- or from anyone else who wants to weigh in. What's your advice?