Trust is the core element in the relationship between healthcare professionals and other staff that make up the medical team. In fact, healthcare professionals' survival relies on good relationships between colleagues as well. There are numerous factors that encourage good working relationships, but among them are the ability to trust and compromise, setting aside inessential differences, and respect for alternative viewpoints. [1]

The medical practice is just as vulnerable as any other practice when it comes to unethical behaviour amongst professionals in the field. At times, certain deeds can prove to be detrimental to their own character and position, and sometimes it affects other professionals as well. Sharing negative criticisms is one of these misdeeds.

How it happens

Sharing criticisms with someone else can happen in different occasions. You might convey your negative opinion about another doctor to a fellow colleague over a brief encounter in the corridor, for instance. Or you might pass a cynical comment about a subordinate when talking to a patient or a nurse, perhaps with the intention to establish your credibility.

To make matters worse, with the rise of social media today, communication and the sharing of information between co-workers can take place beyond workplace encounters and conversations. Social media is now being used as an outlet to vent annoyance and frustration; this can extend to sharing overt criticisms about another colleague as well.

The dangers of negative criticisms

One of the dangers of sharing negative criticisms is that it undermines the professionalism of the entire organization. Not only does it damage your authority as a healthcare professional, it can in fact compromise patient satisfaction and quality of healthcare by adding stress to an already tense situation. Patients need the assurance that they are in good hands, and your personal issues with your medical team should not lead them to believe otherwise. [2]

Sharing your disapproval about another colleague is also detrimental to workplace culture and doctor-doctor experience. Teamwork is at the core of medical practice and the feeling of animosity towards other members in the medical community will eventually hurt team solidarity. More seriously, it can lead to malpractice lawsuits. According to Medscape’s 2013 Malpractice Report, most doctors who went through such an experience described it as “upsetting” and “horrible”.[3]

Informal criticism should not be confused with reporting professional misconduct, inappropriateness or negligence within the medical practice. Those cases should be addressed appropriately to the relevant authority using a proper medium. However, certain comments and judgments about other fellow professionals should be reserved, lest it would likely turn into slander and defamation. Fault finding serves no other purpose except to express ill will, affect the interests of others and tarnish the image of one’s professional colleagues.[4] MIMS

Read more:
When doctors and nurses collide: How can the differences be resolved?
The doctor-doctor relationship
Nurses: Here's how empathy can help you deal with workplace conflicts
Envy: poisonous in any workplace but more so in healthcare

[1] Garelica, Antony; Fagin, Leonard. “Doctor to doctor: getting on with colleagues”. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment. May 2004, 10 (3) 225-232. Web.
[2] Starr, Adam.“15 Things Medical Professionals Should Never Do”. Nursing Link. 1 Feb 2010. Web. 30 Oct 2016.
[3] Kane, Leslie. “Medscape Malpractive Report: Did They Deserve to Get Sued?”. Medscape. 24 Jul 2013. Web. 30 Oct 2016.
[4] Thawani, Vijay. “The doctor-doctor relationship: professional criticism”. Indian Journal of Medical Ethics Vol 8, No.3 (2000). Web. 30 Oct 2016.