Workplace Stress No Excuse for Surgeon’s Rude Behaviour

A cardiac surgeon has failed to convince the Industrial Relations Commission that workplace stress excused his rude behaviour.

In August 2020 the surgeon, employed by Queensland Health, received a complaint against him after his interactions with nursing staff during an operation. It was alleged he had repeatedly made disrespectful and bullying comments towards a nurse and breached the Code of Conduct by using profanities and a raised voice towards staff.

Queensland Health substantiated the allegations and said it was considering reprimand, however, the surgeon appealed the investigation to the State Industrial Relations Commission. The surgeon claimed he did not use profanities and was not blasphemous. He explained that his actions were a product of the stressful situation or a misunderstanding due to cultural differences. He also blamed the hospital more broadly for its training practices for nurses.

The Industrial Commission acknowledged the surgeon worked in one of the most stressful occupations and could appreciate that the environment may prompt such statements. However, the statements still constituted disrespectful behaviour. The surgeon should be able to manage his stress reactions and therefore is not an excuse to insult the nurses.

Therefore the Commission found that Queensland Health was entitled to substantiate the allegations and the surgeon’s appeal was rejected.

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Written by Danielle McNamee


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