Monday, August 2, 2010

Dr. Rude

Within the field of abortion it can be very challenging to have conversations about the difficulties we face, because there is a fear that anti-abortion radicals will take our words and misconstrue them. Once an anti took one of my blog posts about being burned out, posted a few sentences about it and turned my point into their own point. It's a fear based on experience.

One of the doctors where I work is rude. Sometimes doctors are rude no matter what they specialize in. It's challenging because doctors who will do abortions are so few and far between that we have to accommodate doctors even when they are inconsiderate. It feels like we have to be thankful they are willing to provide safe abortion care and just put up with their ugly attitudes. This doctor is one of the few who will provide abortions in my area, and he will do second trimester procedures. I am thankful he is willing to practice and provide safe care.

Abortion care is under such attack in this country that there is limited space for us to figure out how to keep improving services, because we are constantly fighting just to keep our clinic open. We are constantly defending our very existence rather than putting our energy towards perfecting the care we provide. I don't feel like I have any answers, but I wish that abortion care providers had space to work through the daily challenges that could come up in any old job without being under the constant scrutiny of anti-abortion activists. We try to do some of that constructive conversation right here on the blog, but as you've probably noticed it often gets crowded out by posts about anti-related stress. QED: They're such a drag.


  1. YES. I have thought about this issue so much. I worked with a doctor before who I harbored very negative feelings towards, because I felt that he didn't care at all about patients and only cared about the bottom line. He had a lot of policies that I strongly disagreed with and I didn't like the way he was with patients at all. I ultimately wound up leaving his clinic to work somewhere else in large part because I just felt so awful working for him (and he was a terrible employer who could have cared less about his staff too).

    ...On the other hand, he was very skilled, had an extremely low rate of complications, performed procedures up to the legal limit in our state (21 weeks at our clinic), and at the end of the day was providing a much needed service in a safe way. I have to remind myself it's to be expected that there are nuances and shades of grey even among people "on my team". Not everyone working in abortion care feels passionately about it from a political standpoint, and not everyone feels compassionate towards patients. Unfortunately I do feel that pull to be grateful that they're still there doing their job. But we do need a safe space to be able to talk about these issues.

  2. Let me begin by qualifying my background as a former OB-GYN nurse with a strong passion for patient advocacy. My advocacy for patients, particularly women who subordinate themselves to physicians, Add to this power imbalance are nurses and administrators who believe the doctor is the reason for their existence. That type of mindset is still prevalent; however, it's a huge liability. As you stated in your post, the doctor's rudeness impacts the staff and the patients. While medical and surgical skills are critical, they only address part of humanity. Compassion and civility can go a long way.

    From a legal perspective, researchers in risk management have found that perceived rudeness and indifference can be lethal for malpractice insurance. Patients will sue more often over indifference than actual harm. It can also lead staffers to leave or, worse, to sabotage the practice.

  3. Thank you both for your comments. I'm totally in agreement. And, MoralPilgrim, talking about things like best practices even from a strictly business point of view -- like the insurance thing you bring up -- is so critical. We need to be able to keep our clinics and offices open to continue serving women, and in some cases that requires managing some bad attitudes on staff. We're able to do it with support staff, but maybe the rarity of docs makes it harder to confront in them. I like my current setup -- in a non-profit clinic staffed by a regular rotation of docs, as opposed to being owned by any one of them -- because it doesn't feel as dependent on any one doctor, and theoretically the organization's values can remain important in deciding whom to retain. As long as the doctors exist to choose from, that is.


This is not a debate forum -- there are hundreds of other sites for that. This is a safe space for abortion care providers and one that respects the full spectrum of reproductive choices; comments that are not in that spirit will either wind up in the spam filter or languish in the moderation queue.