Brian Turner : LUSENET : Digital Portfolio : One Thread

Brian Turner - Professional Portfolio

-- Anonymous, April 28, 2001



Dear Brian,

I would like to spend some time with a real issue, please.

My main profession is in the NHS as an Orthoptist. I work in the Ophthalmic Department as a supporting therapist with two Consultants and their 4 Assistants ( although I hasten to add not all at the same time !). I also work one day per week as a Student counsellor in my local FE college. I use my counselling skills in the hospital working with the emotional side of visual disorders. This is recognised and supported by my Consultants. However, in common with many people I have become very disillusioned with the Health Service and have, for some time wished to move out into more counselling. This has not proved possible to do up until now for financial reasons and I am finding it increasingly difficult to maintain my enthusiasm for my job. I have one doctor I work for who makes life extremely difficult for me. He continually tries to find ways to undermine my confidence and make life difficult. I am not the only one, he will do this to anyone else who gets in his way when he is in the mood. I feel I should be able to handle this. I appreciate his circumstances. He is a Muslim with a very high achieving wife who is a Consultant Haematologist. His life revolves around making as much money as possible and ordering more and more high-tech equipment for the department, which is not always used. I come home from work feeling more and more dissatisfied with a job I used to love doing.

I suppose my problem in all of this is that I want to remain content and happy with my work despite all the underlying tensions, and there are many others. Maybe I just want to let off steam !

Sincerely Pauline


Dear Pauline,

Finding a job that is satisfying and keeping it so, is not easy is it? and even if the job is ok circumstances and people around it are usually changing, just when we think we have got it right!

Iím going through what you have said with some ideas which, as I donít know you or your situation much yet, I guess have to be counted as Ďmaybesí, so if they donít fit for you ignore them, but there might be something that is of use to you.

I work some of my time in the NHS so am aware of some of the pressures/culture involved. I find I have to be aware of where my own value comes from - colleagues in the system who know my work, my own belief in my abilities, partner/friends outside. The system itself often seems to struggle to acknowledge personal skills and achievements.

You are also having to manage the Dr who makes your life difficult. It sounds like there are others who get treated the same by him, can you support each other in the way you respond to him? You say you Ďought to be able to handle thisí, why? Are you usually able to handle situations like this? What makes this one different? Is it harder to challenge him because he is different? ( in religion or culture?). Do his beliefs(culture) affect the way he responds to you (status, male/female)? Appreciating his circumstances and respecting his differences doesnít give him the right to be disrespectful of you or your work.

Is doing more counselling in another setting a not closed option? Could you take on clients gradually or privately in another setting? If this were to happen would it make the NHS job more or less bearable? Would you want to decrease those hours gradually? Is that negotiable? How much do the financial aspects govern this? Would you be more content in doing more counselling but being a bit poorer? What matters most?

Is this it ok for me to be posing all these questions/options or would you like me to respond in a different way?(another question!). As you say, maybe you just want to let of steam, would you prefer I just listen?

Best wishes, Brian.

PS I will be away Fri 4th to Fri 11th May.

9/5/01 Dear Brian,

Thanks for your reply and your maybe's. I am sending this on Wednesday , as you are away, although I actually wrote it at the end of last week.

The NHS is all about teamwork and when one member of the team is disruptive, everyone else becomes disturbed and ill-at-ease. Since I wrote to you, another incident has occurred. However, on talking about it to the other staff in the OPD, it seems as though 'he' is affecting everyone with his comments and niggles. I have been helped to see that it is probably not personal but just the circumstances of my job which make me the choice for his 'bullying' - for that is what it is. The OPD Sister actually said "It is hard enough to do our job without someone like him making life difficult for everyone !" It makes me angry that the NHS takes so little care of its employees in an emotional sense.

I find it difficult to handle situations like this even though I am more assertive than I used to be. I want to tell him what I think of him, but my education and culture does not allow me to do this. I would like to tell him his culture does not give him the right to treat women the way he does. (I have tried to rationalise my distaste by recognising that he is of a different religion and culture)

I think the worst part is that his outbursts happen when I am least expecting them eg at the beginning of a busy clinic. It takes me ages to confer with others and to use my assertive skills on myself.

My leaving the NHS and into counselling is a subject that I have given much thought and energy to. I am satisfied that I am doing all I can to relieve this situation.

I look forward to hearing from you again Pauline

15/5/01(2) Dear Pauline,

Iím glad that you know it is not just you who has the problem with this man. Do others confront him? If so how do they do it? I guess it is difficult for some as he has high status. I find the combination of Consultant status and a background that give men the idea they are more important than women is probably the worst combination for the encouragement of arrogance.

What is it about your education and culture that stops you using your assertive skills with him? Is it always at the beginning of busy clinics that he is a problem? Perhaps he is anxious or nervous then? If you knew this about him would it help you to deal with him?

It is ironic that the agencies that are supposed to be the most caring are often those that seem incapable of caring for their staff. My theory is that there are three main influences on this: 1) That they are dealing with strong emotions that are often projected onto staff issues unless this is recognised and dealt with. 2) Most of us come into this area in order to work out emotional stuff for ourselves, if we donít do that enough then we are open to 1 above. 3) The management style of the last couple of decades has been push your staff to the limit and this has really been around in the NHS recently. Hence the feeling of being used - maybe!

We need to set up a contract: I suggest we each send one email per week over a total of six weeks (thats four more)and then to review if this is enough or if you want more. I normally compose my replies over week ends, so you should receive it early in the week I will let you know if I will be unable to respond at this time any week.( Iwill be away for a long w/e over Whitsun and at the end of June). Please will you also let me know if you are going to be away or unable to respond?

I will treat anything you write in you emails as confidential and would not disclose any of the content to anyone else, the only exception would be if I felt there was a danger to yourself or others. Anything I disclosed would only be in very exceptional circumstances and I would make every effort to discuss this with you first.

Can you let me know if this is ok as a contract, and if there is anything you wish to negotiate to add?

9/5/01 Dear Brian,

I found your reply focussed and helpful and reading it helped to being down my emotions to a more reasonable level, so that I could use my 'thinking skills'.

Your PS was a bit of a shock. Although it wasn't in a crisis situation, I felt as though my support mat was being pulled from under me. This actually had nothing to do with you but was pushing buttons madly for me. If I had known at the beginning of our exchanges that you were not going to be around then I would have felt better.

There was also a friend who had withdrawn support for me, due to personal problems of their own. I was feeling rejected because, at the time, I was not aware of why they had done so . Having a reason explained to me made things easier. However, rejection is one of the things I constantly have to work on.

I hope you enjoyed your break, it is a lovely time of year to go away.

Sincerely Pauline

15/5/01 Dear Pauline,

Sorry about the shock re my PS. I couldnít have told you earlier if you had come to the website, but I could have told you straight away that I would not be available for that time before I started counselling. Perhaps this would have given you the opportunity of choosing another counsellor if you wished?



16/5/01 Dear Brian,

Thank you for your reply. I shall attempt to answer your questions. With regard to confrontation - he seems to react best to people who just answer him back in the most forthright way (could be called 'cheek' ). He seems to be quiet then. I am not this sort of person. I guess he knows I don't want to confront his so it makes him play on this. It happens to the quieter nurses also.

I have never been very assertive, particularly with people who are my superiors and if they are critical and overbearing (like my father). In recent years I have been mor able to stand up for myself. I have come away from meetings shaking all ocer but feeling pleased for myself at the stand I have taken.

To go back to Dr S. He likes to do things in the middle of clinic in front of the patients. This week I had attempted, to carry out a routine test on an elderly lady who was too deaf to understand the instructions. I am experienced enough to be confident about my decision not to continue, as it was distressing for her, and I wrote this in the hospital notes. Despite this, I was 'summoned' into the clinic in front of the patient and her daughter in order to explain again why I had not done the test. I felt OK about this but angry that my decision was called into question. None of the other Consultants or Registrars would have behaved like this. I was having a good day and was able to handle this well.

His health is not good and we have been told this week that he is soon to have 2 knee replacements. He had one done last year (no he hasn't got three legs !). He also has back problems. He is 63 but refuses to retire until his wife also does, being the same age !

I understand he is in pain but I still don't understand why he has to take all this out on us !! Still , I am pleased to be able to get this off my chest .

One email a week is fine. I will have problems writing at weekends for a while. I will be away 5 weekends in a row from 26th May. My daughter is getting married on 9th June and I have other commitments as well.

Many thanks for lietening, Pauline


Dear Pauline,

Thanks for your email. Thanks for explaining more about you three- legged consultant! I was impressed to hear that you are able to deal with his unprofessional behaviour in front of patients. It is good that you can remain professional yourself.

He sounds a bit of a coward, like most bullies - and therefore vulnerable. I wonder if he hides this by his manner. Would it be possible to say something that acknowledges this and his situation, so that he knows that you know but it doesnít have to be openly said. Or am I getting too convoluted now?

Iím not sure if Ďgetting it of your chestí is enough for you or whether you want to explore ways you could do things differently? Do yyou want me to just hear you or do you want ideas and strategies?

It is alright with me if you have to delay sending a reply as the wedding approaches, if you get tied up with arrangements etc.

Best wishes.


-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

23/5/01 Dear Brian,

At the moment I am handling the situation by trying to keep as far away from Dr. S as possible. This I have done before.

However, on catching a glimpse of him this morning, I found myself hoping that there wouldn't be yet another confrontation. So I am avoiding the issue rather than addressing it.

Your idea of saying something to acknowledge his behaviour is a wonderful one - a bit like a wish granted. However, for the life of me I can't think how to go about this. What I really want is a way of responding so that he realises that he can't get away with treating me like this any more.

I have tried going over his head to complain but it has had no affect, in fact, if anything it makes things worse. We are all talking amongst ourselves about how difficult he is, but all this is sticking plaster and not a long-term solution.

I wonder if you have any ideas on the subject, that I could mull over.

Sincerely Pauline

29/5/01 Dear Pauline,

I am not sure exactly how to tackle Dr S, you know him better and would have to tailor your response to you and him. But I was thinking about something on the lines of:

Iím sorry that you have not well at present and have a real sympathy for you in this situation and realise that this must put a strain on you in your work. I had been trying to work out why someone of the statue and dignity of you should be so rude to me and others at times. I understand now although I still find it very hard to tolerate and would appreciate if you could find another way to express you upset.

Or something like that, Any good? Easy from here, harder there. But you can do it.

Alternatively, there is nothing dishonourable in avoidance, I do it all the time.

Brian 29/5/01 Dear Brian,

Thank you , your reply sounds so simple and straightforward - so why can't I see myself speaking to him in that way ?

Thinking about it, I can see there is something in his manner, that stops me having a reasonable conversation with him. He is totally wrapped up in himself. He never says 'thank you' to anyone or enquires after anyone else's health. This is most unlike any of the other Consultants. There is some sort of barrier that precludes any discourse.

I think I realise why it upsets me so much. I went , last week to see my ex-husband in preparation for meeting up with him again at Jessica's wedding . I thought that it might make things easier on The Day. We last spoke about 3 years ago at his mother's funeral. He did exactly the same to me - talked for an hour and a half about himself and his business, never once having a dialogue with me. Sitting here now, I am struck by the similarities in both men's behaviour. Having said that, my ex wasn't a bully in that sense, rather the "I'm not OK, You're not OK " scenario.

Maybe knowing that, I can take steps to handle the hospital situation better. The way I deal with my ex-husband , is not to see him. So, probably keeping out of Dr S's way is the best option, as far as I am able.

I can see we are getting to the resolution of this problem. Unless you can see something in this email that you think would be advantageous for me to explore, I am reasonably happy with the status quo. Many thanks for your support and input.

Sincerely Pauline 2/6/01 Dear Pauline,

Iím pleased you feel the situation is ok enough now.

You mentioned that Dr Sís manner precludes any discourse, but you have said before that he does stop bullying those who challenge him - so he is made aware enough of others on those occasions to make him think twice the next time. I was suggesting your approach to him would be a statement, not that you should enter a discussion. But why stress yourself if you donít need to - you can always dream!

It was interesting to hear your link to your ex-husbands similar Ďwrapped up in selfí manner. As you say avoidance is pretty effective and ignoring can be just as powerful if you are able to do it.

Iím glad it has helped to have had these exchanges.

Hope the wedding goes well!

Best wishes Brian.

-- Anonymous, June 03, 2001

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