Bullying among surgeons: ‘I was told I was hard to work with but would be good to sleep with’

A report into bullying among surgeons has found endemic problems in the profession and says that those who have suffered abuse have been afraid to speak up.

As part of the Australasian College of Surgeons-commissioned report, surgeons and trainees were given the option of anonymously sharing their experiences of victimisation.

Of the 7500 people contacted, 414 provided detailed responses.

Here are some of the most harrowing testimonies of discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment (some shown direct from the report itself): 

  • “I was told I would only be considered for a job if I had my tubes tied.”
  • “It is industrial bullying”
  • “The trainee was told to go outside and take his life. This sort of behaviour was not out of the ordinary.”
  • “Sexual comments were repeatedly made to me during an operation.”
  • “I was expected to provide sexual favours in his consulting rooms in return for tutorship.”
  • “There has been overt and established bullying, within the college and condoned by willful blindness to act.”
  • “I stood up for a number of women and was threatened with being kicked off the trainee program.”
  • “Bullying is an everyday thing. If you are a courier driver you are cautious of cars. If you are a junior surgeon you are cautious of surgeons.”
  • “Bullying is limited to a few individuals who are repeat offenders.”
  • “Everyone knows who they are.”
  • “They’ve had complaints against them but it’s difficult to get rid of them.”
  • “He deliberately knocked my hand then yelled at me saying I was incompetent.
  • “Saying ‘No’ had to be done in a way that didn’t dent the ego of the sleazy senior.
  • “Yelling is more or less accepted as ordinary behaviour.”
  • “Many of our ‘leaders’ are those who bully, whether subconsciously or deliberately. I cannot see large scale changes being successful when those actively enforcing bad behaviour do so due to their own personality flaws or experiences.”
  • “A loving and supportive family saved me from suicide.”