Thursday, September 24, 2015

Do patients contribute to God complex in surgeons?

The recent EAG Report commissioned by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons suggests that there is a toxic culture of bullying, harrassment and sexual discrimination in surgery.  There are probably multiple reasons why this toxic culture exists.  

One reason that seems to attract less attention is the attitude of self importance and self entitlement and being beyond reproach – or in other words a God complex that surgeons have acquired through their own experiences and being trained to think this way from their mentors. 

Hardly a working day goes by without a patient or their relative telling me how brilliant I was in helping them in their prostate cancer journey. I am always humbled and appreciative of these positive comments.  However, I am a very well trained surgeon who works hard and is obsessive compulsive in trying to do the best for my patients.  I’m just doing my job.  I’m well paid for what I do.  I have amazing job satisfaction.  Often I feel that I have the best job in the world.

But why such adulation for a person who is simply doing their job well?  What we do for our patients is very personal so obviously means a great deal to them.  Additionally there is a significant power imbalance, particular with knowledge and the fact that patients effectively surrender their trust upon us when we perform surgery upon them.

Patients are complicit to the God syndrome acquired by surgeons.  Health reporter Harriet Alexander is on the money when she  writes “For every surgeon who has a God complex, there is a bevy of complicit patients.”  If you keep telling surgeons how brilliant they are, after enough times, they’ll really start believing it.  By all means be appreciative of the work done by surgeons but time to stop the excessive praise for well trained individuals who are simply doing a great job of what they were trained to do.

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