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MDLinxMy Colleague is a Narcissist

Coping with Narcissistic Behavior Among Medical Colleagues

Navigating the healthcare workspace often involves handling complex personalities, including colleagues with narcissistic traits. These individuals can affect both the medical team’s dynamics and patient care.

HCN Medical Memo
The impact of narcissistic behavior in the workplace goes beyond interpersonal relationships and can directly affect patient care. Being equipped to recognize and confront these traits is essential. Addressing the issue might be complex and emotionally taxing, but it is crucial for maintaining a professional atmosphere and providing quality care to patients.

Key Points:
  • Kristen Fuller, MD, shares an experience of dealing with an upper-level resident who exhibited narcissistic behavior, ultimately affecting patient care and team morale.
  • Narcissism in medicine is characterized by self-importance, lack of empathy, and a need for attention, often used as a coping mechanism for the immense pressure physicians face.
  • Confronting such behavior is critical, especially when patients are involved, but it can be a delicate process due to the defensive nature of the narcissistic individual.
  • Dr. John Banja has written a book on medical narcissism, describing it as a defense mechanism employed by doctors.
  • Physician Perspectives: Medical professionals stress that it’s important to document incidents and, if required, to approach higher authority for intervention. They also emphasize the importance of not internalizing blame for the narcissistic behavior of others.
Additional Points:
  • Common phrases from narcissistic individuals may include deflections like “I’m sorry you feel that way” and power grabs like “I hope you know who you’re dealing with.”
  • If confronting a narcissistic colleague directly is uncomfortable or ineffective, it’s advised to document incidents and consult superiors to ensure a healthy work environment.
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“My colleague had made my patient feel that his opinion and feelings did not matter, and she had made me feel dumb and incapable.”
– Kristen Fuller, MD

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