4

What happened?:

My girlfriend is a resident (medical doctor) in a large institution in Italy. She has some 7-8 other colleagues, and all of them are exploited by their superior to do all the hard work in their place. They run the ward by themselves (which by contract they are supposed to work under supervision all the time), they sign therapy (if something goes wrong it's their fault), they are psychologically forced to work way more than what is in their contract (12h/day on average).

Being forced to run ward all the time, they don't have time to learn other important skills (like ultrasonography to name one, which is done by their superior alone while they run the ward). At the end of the year, they are forced to sign a document that certifies that they have done ultrasonography during the year (as per their contract). They do take a lot of other risks they are not supposed to take.

What her colleagues did?

Their colleagues don't seem to have reacted to this situation, even though they talk a lot about trying to change things.

What we've done so far?

My girlfriend and I decided to file an anonymous whistleblow explaining this situation to the institution, which resulted in a meeting with their boss, but eventually didn't lead to any change.

What now?

Now she doesn't want to create any more "problems", and is resigned to the fact that nothing can change, and don't want to file another whistleblow. She's psychologically destroyed, lost faith in her job that she loved, have lost empathy and everything.

What can I do?

I am thinking about another anonymous whistleblow that could force the boss to change things. Even though she doesn't like it, I'm ethically inclined to do something to change her situation.


Clarification: She really wants to become a Neurologist, the only way she can do that is complete a 4 years training after graduation (she's almost half-way). So basically she just can't change job, she could instead ask to be accepted in another Neurology school in the country (but both Department directors should agree, and it's not that easy since by contract you could change only for family reasons or for "serious reasons" which is a wide concepts). Her contract is a 38 hours/week one; it's also written that sporadically the resident could work up to 48 hours/week. She works 70-75 hours/weekly on average. And these hours are mostly unproductive due to repetitive tasks and lack of proper training from the attendings which work elsewhere alone.


Main reasons she's not left yet:

  1. Me, we started to live together 1 year ago.
  2. Her speciality colleagues, she knows that if she leaves, they would be left in an even worse conditions than they are now.

Whistleblow: It reaches directly the boss of her boss. So maybe the first time it went like: "ok, just let me talk to my residents and see what can I do". But since no one ever complained again to the bigger boss (Institutional) maybe they just considered the case closed... Moreover there is the ethical dilemma of filing another whistleblowing not telling my GF (which doesn't believe too much in it).

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Jul 11 at 22:40
17

Do you work with your girlfriend in the same job or at the same company.

If not, don’t get involved. Your job is to listen, let her vent and make her feel better.

You should not be pressuring her to act or do things she might not want to do. You are creating more stress.

Buy some wine. Clean the bathroom. Make a nice meal. Give her a massage

  • OP has stated that he works another specialty at the same institution. – Ben Barden Jul 9 at 19:52
  • I should note: Boyfriend- if one of my coworkers significant others came into my work unit telling me I should file a complaint, I’d look at them wondering who died and put them in charge. Offer suggestions and back off. You are not a hero or whistleblower. If you work there go go to Human Resources on your own and leave your girlfriends name out of it. – Gregtheeg Jul 10 at 23:08
  • Thanks for your answer @Gregtheeg . I already do my best to support her all the time. But you know, it's hard to see her burning out little by little due to this toxic work enviroment. And you know it's not easy to promptly react to this kind of situations when you live them in first place. – KingBOB Jul 11 at 21:26
  • I can see that you want to support her, but you can not fight her battles or take control of the situation. She can file another grievance but it might not achieve results. She can transfer. She can inquire about a leave of absence. Honestly, dropping out now so close to the end would be unfortunate. A vacation and break the conclusion is in order. Changing an academic and residency program midway through as a student is near impossible. – Gregtheeg Jul 13 at 1:29
6

This seems a straight forward case to form some sort of local worker representation inside the institution, or join a regional or national union and put pressure on management.

Such misuse seems pretty common in the health care sector. Since there was already a chance for higher management to properly clean up their institution it seems it is one of the many cases in the health care sector where such mismanagement is rather structural than individual misbehaviour.

As you work in the same place, you can approach this together. The more departments join, the better. In the end, the main drive for change needs to come from the affected department however. So at that stage it is something that mainly your girlfriend (and her colleagues) would need to do, but you - and everyone else can support them. And you could lay the groundwork by establishing first contact with a union representative.

Alternatively you can consider talking to the press or government officials outside the institution, in particular if the institution is publicly funded, but both comes with legal risks. Hence, the first step should be to get legal advice on who you can talk to and what you can reveal and decide then what the best way forward is. For this, you could directly talk to a lawyer. If you find an honest journalist, that cares about his/her sources they might also provide legal advice via their publisher.

On the other hand this is the bread and butter of unions, so talking to a union representative might well be the best start for this direction as well. Establishing strong union membership together with her colleagues (and possibly other ranks such as nurses) would also make it much easier to put pressure on management later on.

2

I'm assuming that your girlfriend otherwise loves her job and the people she's working with (and for) and wishes to remain working there if at all possible.

Your girlfriend should reconnect with the same manager who dealt with the whistleblowing report and say that the desired outcome did not happen to satisfaction.

Out of your new meeting, you need to define goals and expectations for your girlfriend that she's happy with. Also defines what happens if those goals are not met.

Also investigate if there's any impact on breaking the employment contract as a result of these issues (compensation, etc.)

  • The manager who dealt with the whistleblowing is the same one who's the source of the problem. They're the one abusing the system, at the cost of the girlfriend and coworkers. They're not going to change just because you say so, and they will look for ways to get rid of the squeaky wheel. – Ben Barden Jul 9 at 18:14
  • @BenBarden From what I understand from the question, the person dealing with the whistleblowing report is the managers senior, not the manager. – Snow Jul 9 at 19:35
2

The real question is: how will your girlfriend's life change after she completes her specialisation? That should be the starting point of any consideration on her circumstances.

In any case: Italy has very strong unions. Other countries don't have this luck. Your friends should be talking to a union representative.

And... 70 hours per week are uncommon. In environments such as research labs or hospitals, this is much more common; if your girlfriend is halfway through, maybe she can try spending part of the last two years doing some exchange program? If not, as long as she is not subject to psychological or physical abuse, she might get on with in and power through the next 24 months. It's very difficult to get into specialisation schools. It might be worth going through this at the moment to be free later.

  • 1
    I hope so, thanks for the support. – KingBOB Jul 11 at 21:34
-1

Quietly look for another job and move amicably

I am thinking about another anonymous whistleblow that could force the boss to change things.

If the first one hasn't changed things, I doubt another one will change it either. Sadly, at times, the upper management doesn't care about the ground level issues, as long as the business is running.

The best move for your girlfriend, from the perspective of her mental and emotional well-being, and long term career goals would be to keep looking for a better workplace which aligns well with her career goals and move.

Better not to spend precious time in an unworthy place and make a move. If she has any contract or agreement in place, make sure she fulfils it and gracefully make an exit.

While such workplace malpractice in are pretty common, your girlfriend sure must have grown seeing such things in action, and is now better placed to make a much wiser choice with her next job.

  • 3
    She is in a medical residency. Just find another job is not that easy. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jul 9 at 13:45
  • @IDrinkandIKnowThings I understand your concern. Finding and switching job may be pretty difficult, but what other option does she have? – Nimesh Neema Jul 9 at 13:47
  • 1
    As I added in the update, it's not easy to switch job (it's a 4 years paid traning to become a Neurologist, and she's almost half-way). She could try to be accepted in another center or retry the really competitive test and start from day 1 again. – KingBOB Jul 9 at 17:29

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