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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Marisa Ross

HR Advisor

Marisa is an experienced and motivated HR professional with a strong HR generalist and business operations background with a focus on employee relations, performance management, leadership training & development, workers compensation & injury management, and employee retention. Marisa holds a Bachelor of Human Resource Management and a Bachelor of Behavioural Science with a minor in Counselling. Having worked in a variety of industries from SMEs to large blue-chip organisations, Marisa is passionate about enriching employee experience, employee retention, and building leadership capability in people management.

Aimee Grigson

Aimee Grigson

WHS Advisor

Aimee has a strong understanding of Workplace Health and Safety Legislation and standards and has extensive HSEQ experience in a number of industries. Aimee has a great ability to engage across all levels of organisation, including field teams, leadership and external stakeholders. Aimee ensures Health and Safety Management Systems are compliant to legislation, effectively implemented and understood by all. Aimee has a Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety and qualifications in auditing and incident investigations. Aimee is passionate about coaching and developing small businesses towards a positive safety culture.