As I lay here attempting to sleep, I can't seem to stop thinking about an experience, a significant experience. It deeply affected me, both personally and professionally.
I became an attending physician at the hospital where I trained. It also happened to be the hospital where I did my third and fourth year clerkships for medical school. I appreciated my experience so much that it was my first choice for residency. It was in an urban setting that I always called "my gem in the middle of the hood." This unique microcosm was a place where I could treat and educate people who looked like, and sounded like, me; Black people, Caribbean people. I saw it as a place where I could truly perfect my practice of medicine, and possibly practice there for the rest of my life. I thoroughly enjoyed my residency training and felt well prepared for my future as an attending.
I was retained for a brand new position as an Academic Internal Medicine Hospitalist and Quality Champion (“whatever that is”). I signed on to be both, understanding that the majority of my job would be focused on academic hospitalist teaching with residents and the minority as a Quality Champion. I started off worried and scared about my academic position, but I grew and learned to love it. I became a teacher, who knew; It was great. I taught and learned at the same time and developed lifelong relationships with my residents that I never expected. I am forever grateful for this experience.
I left this position because my administrative duties as a Quality Champion became unbearable. As a Quality Champion, I was responsible for ensuring best practices in reference to Central Lines, Urinary Catheters, VTE prophylaxis etc. for several floors within the hospital. It was a new position and I didn't know what it entailed. The head of the department was someone I admired. I learned so much from her as a student and a resident and was excited and ready to work hand in hand with her.
Sadly, this excitement quickly dwindled. As I sit here and write this I am teary eyed as I am still greatly affected by this experience. I was bullied and made to feel less than by this person I admired so much. I was not alone, my colleagues specifically nurses I worked with daily were also suffering. There were many days we cried together because we felt we had no other choice. In my memory one particular day stands out, I burst into tears in the hallway. The housekeeper I greeted daily for the past five years hugged and consoled me. She had never seen me like this, she told me "we all have days like this." Little did she know all of my days, at this place I loved so much, were now like "this."
Being a Quality Champion began to trump everything. I came to work in fear, I began to hate coming to work, I began to hate teaching. My personality changed, I changed and my mental health suffered.
At this point all I knew was that I needed a change. The biggest decision I have made thus far in my professional career was to leave this position. I left the place and the people that I loved so dearly because of someone else.
I didn't realize until later on how much this whole experience affected me. I didn't seek help until I became anxious about going into my new job or having insomnia because I would have flashbacks about going to work in fear. This was the first time in my life that I felt I had no control and seeking help made me realize that I could regain control. I realized that I didn't know my worth, I didn't know how to say no. I didn't know that "No" was a full sentence.
Over time I began to heal, I gained my power back. I realized, though I was mistreated by this woman that I admired so much, I learned a lot from her. Her tactics weren't great, but she never settled for less. The main thing I learned was that I never wanted to become her. I am a stronger woman, physician, physician educator, and overall person from this experience. I know now that I will never settle for less.
My advice to ALL residents, doctors, healthcare professionals:
• KNOW YOUR WORTH.
• NO is a complete sentence.
• If the job starts affecting your mental health or if it has changed you as a person, it's time for a change.
• HR is your best friend in these situations where you feel bullied or if you work in a hostile environment.
Stay Strong, You are not alone.