Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Woman Injured in Skydiving Accident--Please Pray!

This is Kenzie Markie. She was injured in a skydiving accident in Arizona and is in serious condition. She is family of a friend and she needs to get home to her father in Canada, but she is still in serious condition. Please send prayers and healing energy!

This is a link to an article explaining the accident: Kenzie Markey

This is the link to donate a dollar to help send her home: Fundrazr . com

Monday, April 14, 2014

Kindness, Paying it Forward, and Goats

Alpine Goat in Paris, France. Photo by Eponimm. I was told by a local goat farmer that the Alpine goat is a great milking goat. 

When my children were young and I was suddenly a single mother I was determined to do everything I could to make their lives beautiful so the pain and grieving experience of losing a relationship would not affect them as it was affecting me. Some things I tried worked well, some did not. I tried writing them letters to tell them about my life, but they ended up expressing a bit too much pain, but I would still highly recommend journal writing as a healing tool. I also played subliminal positive affirmation tapes while they were falling asleep, tapes that had a man's soft voice telling them they were strong, intelligent, amazing people speaking behind music that generally put them to sleep within minutes. Oddly enough, I believe that was effective. Although they were sleeping when he spoke, they can still recite the introduction to those tapes 30 years later, and yes, they are strong, intelligent, and amazing!

And now I'll bet you're wondering what this has to do with the goats...

Nubian goat. I love Nubian goats. I think it's something about those ears! Photo by TTaylor.

During this healing phase I also decided I was going to teach my children to appreciate the many gifts God has given us, including the gift of animals. In order to do this I obviously could not raise my children in an apartment in the city. I lived with my parents for a short time and they generously cared for my children while I looked for a new home. This was a great decision because my parents taught them that family supports each other. However, I still prayed for a home of our own, a place away from the city where we could rest, heal, and live with nature. 

I was at work when I found the ad in the paper. It was like a miracle you would see in a movie! At the bottom of the page, just a few lines, a two-bedroom farmhouse with fenced yard and barn for $300 a month. I think I actually started crying. (Yes, I'm getting to the goats!)

African Pygmy Goat. Photo in pubic domain. I have read that milk from the Pygmy Goat works well for making butter--and they're just so cute! In fact, according to a book I found online, Pygmy Goat milk is the best for making butter because milk from the other varieties of goats is not as rich. This, however, makes their milk good for different purposes, which I will discuss in a moment. 

I met the woman who owned the rental house--the original homesteading house on the historic property. She owned all of the land around, and a much larger house down the road so she would be fairly close in case of an emergency. The house had a chicken coop for night safety, a barn, a rabbit hutch, and a small pond that I built for ducks. It had trees, and birds, and wild animals that crept about at night. It was across a field from the train tracks and we could listen to the trains and sometimes walked along the tracks while I told them stories about the history of Colorado. It was perfect.

Layla Lou, my house bunny, in her hutch. My current bunny lives in our dining room because her hutch fits perfectly by the back door and she can look outside whenever she wants. 

My older sister, who lives in Arkansas, tried to give me advice. We started with the rabbits and they seemed very happy, but my sister disapproved. Apparently we were supposed to eat the rabbits, not pet them. That idea didn't go over well with any of us! We then bought chickens and unfortunately ended up with a few too many roosters. One of the roosters tried to attack my daughter every time she wore a certain pink coat. A friend took care of the rooster problem. I had a few Running Ducks and the chickens and ducks roamed the yard, ate all the bugs, and left us a large supply of eggs. The house also had a huge kitchen and I made all of our bread. I then found a goat, Ivy. She was registered and had a pedigree, performed little dances for the children, and her milk was delicious. There was only one problem: I had too much food! In fact, I had so much milk and eggs that I had to throw some away because it was spoiling.

I loved our Running Ducks. They remind me of little people, get along great with other animals, and they make great guard...ducks. Photo by Lantus.

Then my world changed again. I was offered my old job back in Denver. The pay was fantastic, and we needed to get back on our feet financially, but I didn't have money for a babysitter saved up yet and I had already asked so much of my parents! My mother tried caring for my children for awhile, but she had a job, too, working with my father. It was time to pray for another miracle, and the miracle came with the help of Ivy, the wonder goat. 

Look! It's a kid! Photo by Lionel Rich.

The miracle was not what I expected! My mother met a woman who recently gave birth to her fourth child, but the baby would not take her breast milk or formula. She did, however, drink goats milk! The young woman told me that she also went through a time in her life when she could not pay for groceries and a stranger helped her out so she and her children could start over. She offered to babysit for me in exchange for goats milk and chicken eggs. I couldn't believe it--a babysitter who actually needed our excess goat's milk and chicken eggs! It was too much, really! I mean, I knew how much she could have charged me for watching my children, but she didn't charge me--she was paying it forward.

Take Five! What a cute collection! Chicks are so adorable, and they are useful in teaching children to be gentle. Photo by siehe Lizenz.

It wasn't easy. I was a single mother working a full-time job. I had to milk the goat at sunrise, feed the chickens, dress the children for daycare, drive half an hour one way to the babysitter then drive 1 1/2 hours to Denver to work. It was a challenge, but a fun challenge. Every minute of every day was fun!

And oh how quickly life changes. My children's father returned to the state and we decided that even though we could not make our marriage work, we were going to do all we could to make our divorce work with joint custody and equal support. I realized I had to make a choice between being able to afford to support my children and pay for college, or work in Denver and sacrifice the college education. But the education was a learning experience that I wanted for my children, too! I wanted them to see me succeed! I told them, always, that they could be anyone the wanted to be, that they could do anything they wanted to do! I had started working as a journalist at 18 years old with no college education, just determination and the desire to succeed. Now, I wanted the education to back up my journalism career, and more than anything, I wanted to show my children I could succeed.

Life is a series of decisions and choices, and so, my little farm came to a sad, painful end.

The farmhouse was torn down years ago and replaced with a subdivision as we moved on with our lives. However, none of us has ever forgotten our little farm in Berthoud, Colorado. In fact, I still hear my children talking about it to their friends and their own children, and my children are now in their thirties. And I have a debt of kindness to repay to society. I need to pay it forward.

Herd of goats in the Greek highlands/public domain. I may need a herd this size to fulfill my dream!

I now have a new dream, and I will make this dream happen. I want to raise goats and chickens and donate the milk, cheese, and eggs to single mothers and low-income families. My grandchildren are strong, intelligent, active, and growing older, and they can help me with the animals the way their parents helped me, and they can learn about these wonderful gifts from God. 

It is more than a dream, it is something that I know in my heart I must do, so once again, I am praying for a miracle. We have sold our house in New Mexico and we are moving back to Colorado to live close to our children and grandchildren. I know, in my heart, that this miracle will come true.

African Pygmy Goat. Photo in public domain.

So I am praying. I am praying that all the pieces will come together. I am praying that I will find the perfect home, and the goats and chickens, and the strength and energy to run this small enterprise, and the people who need my help with the gift of milk, eggs, and cheese. I am praying for a miracle. I am praying for the chance to pay it forward after all these years in memory of that wonderful woman who helped me so generously with her gift of kindness by trading goats milk for child care.

Friday, April 11, 2014

On Joy...

"We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, 
joy follows like a shadow that never leaves." 

"Joy in looking and comprehending is nature's most beautiful gift." --Albert Einstein

"Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls." 
--Mother Teresa

"Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness 
that you are able to give." --Eleanor Roosevelt

White-Winged Dove building a nest. 
All photos by Darla Sue Dollman. Do not use without permission.

In Love...

Black Vultures in Kingsland, Texas. 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.                            

I photographed vultures often when I lived in Texas where they are welcomed as God's cleaning crew and admired for their huge size and interesting habit of circling around warm updrafts. (No, vultures do not circle around dead animals). However, Black Vultures are also interesting for another reason--they are monogamous, and they mate for life.

While photographing and studying vultures I also noticed that Black Vultures were actually affectionate toward each other. For example, one afternoon my husband and I were driving through town and noticed two vultures sitting side by side on a rooftop. We pulled the truck over to the side of the road to watch. One of the vultures--I assumed it was the male--would leave on occasion and fly in circles around the other then each time it came in to land it was just a little bit closer until he was right beside her. It was fascinating to watch. Then it started to rain and the bird did the most amazing thing--he spread his wing around her back as if to protect her and keep her warm.

I told this story to a friend who also studies birds and he laughed and told me I was trying to attribute human habits to animals, but I know what I saw, and my husband saw the same thing. It was a moment we will never forget. As we watched those two birds sitting on the rooftop my husband and I sat in our truck holding hands and watched the cuddling vultures in the rain.

Black Vultures form such a close bond with each other that they spend all of their time together, not just during mating season. They sit close to each other, or if they are on separate posts, across from each other or side by side. In vulture culture flirting with other vultures is taboo. In fact, vultures will drive cheaters out of their venue (flock).

I firmly believe they enjoy each other's company because they are in love.

Being in love is more than just giggling and flirting, buying gifts and dating, though I do believe those activities are important to human relationships. It may be important to Black Vultures, as well. For example, there was a couple of Black Vultures that lived in the forest behind our Texas home. Every night I climbed onto the roof of our house to photograph the sunset. Every night, those vultures flew out of the forest and onto a large, metal post in the distance.

The vulture couple watching the sunset. When the sun went down they would fly back over my head as I sat on the roof and into the forest behind me. Black Vultures build their nests on the ground and it was around Valentine's Day, so I think they had a nest behind the house. It would be the perfect spot, right next to our stream and with a never-ending supply of small birds that I kept well-fed! 

They sat side by side, facing the setting sun, and when the sun was down they flew back over my head and returned to their forest home. This may just be my opinion, but I believe they did this because they were "in love," because they enjoyed each other's company all of the time.

Sunset over Kingsland, Texas. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

And I guess that's my point. It's fun to fall in love and it's fun to flirt and go on dates, but you know you are truly "in love" when you are willing to be there for each other through the good and the bad, through the long haul, for life, and you truly enjoy each other's company. You know you are in love when you are willing to sit next to each other in a rain storm and one of you places your wing across the shoulders of the other to keep your partner warm and dry. That is being in love.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Happiness: How to Stay Happy in Love

My secret to a happy and joyful relationship: 
Watch the sunrise together...

Watch the sunset together...

And when the sky is clear, step outside and stare at the moon together. 

Then just before bed, hold each other's hands and pray together. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Good for you, Good for Them, Good for the World

Wedding Rings. One of the fastest ways to destroy a marriage is to fight on Facebook. If it's not good for you, and it's not good for your marriage, don't do it. Photo by Musaromana.

For those of you who do not know, Facebook is a social media network. I joined six or seven years ago on the advice of my children so I could communicate with them and their friends more often--my children are married with children of their own and still have the same friends they did in elementary school, and now, they are my friends, too. 

My parents are on Facebook, all of my children, their in-laws, their friends, my friends--I now feel more connected with family and friends through Facebook than I have felt my entire life.

When Social Media is NOT Good for you...

However, there are two hidden dangers in this connection--comfort and strangers. Strange to think comfort would be a danger? Not with social media. 

Along with adding friends and family, you quickly learn how easy it is to add strangers. Eventually, these strangers become very good friends...or they don't. I honestly do not see how anyone can be "very good friends" with 350 Facebook friends! Inviting strangers into your personal world is a risk, it is dangerous if we discuss too much of our personal lives, especially disagreements. 

Which brings me to hidden danger number two: Comfort. One of the first things I noticed about Facebook was how comfortable people seemed to be talking about their personal lives. I am referring to people who talk poorly about their spouses or children on Facebook. 

I have seen/read fights that lasted for days between family members who were all friends with me and friends with each other on Facebook, and some of these people had 300 friends on their page from work, school, family, and all of these friends read every word of these arguments, and if these friends do not have their page set up properly, all of their friends saw these arguments, and so on and so on. You do the math--it frightens me! 

When I joined, I made a promise to myself that I would never speak poorly of a family member or friend on Facebook. Sometimes I am temperamental. Sometimes I say things I do not mean. I have deleted many comments immediately after making them. I have deleted friends for consistently being mean to me or others.

Good for you! 

My point is, if it isn't good for me, I shouldn't do it. If it is bad for me, bad for my family, my friends, the people I love, I shouldn't say it, do it, post it. 

I wish I could say this to some of my friends without sounding judgmental. I wish I could stop them in the middle of a fight and say, "Hey! Your 300 game friends, 100 school friends and 50 family members are all reading this every personal argument between you and your husband! This is not good for you! This is not good for your marriage!" 

But, this is not my business, either. All I can do is keep in mind that programs like Facebook--as much as they might feel like home while we're talking to our friends and family and posting photos of our children--are public, not private. Just about as public as you can get!

No judgment here, just advice...

So yes, I will offer this advice: If it's not good for you, perhaps you should not join. Or perhaps you should un-join. If it's not good for your relationships, friendships, children, then why are you doing it? Yes, it can be fun, but it can also be addicting, and addictions are not good for you. Yes, the games are fun, too, but the more people you add to play games, that's more people who will read and know everything about your personal life. 

Personal is private, and disagreements with someone you love should always be private. When they become public--especially to 300 people--it is nearly impossible to heal the pain. 

We all say things we regret later, some of us more often than others, and we all have times when we need to apologize to those we love, but if we say those hurtful words in front of an audience, the pain we've caused intensifies. It becomes embarrassment, public humiliation, and perhaps could even be considered abuse depending on the situation. 

"Corazon" by Ilhh. Public domain.

I'm not a marriage therapist. I'm not a psychiatrist. I'm a wife, mother, stepmother, a grandmother, and a friend, and I don't see these roles as work, but if I did refer to them as jobs I would say, from my heart, that they are the most important jobs I will ever have. 

Our children and grandchildren are the future of this world. If we teach them peace, honor, compassion, kindness and love, this is what they will continue to bring to this world long after we are gone. It is our legacy. They are our legacy.

This Train we Call Life

My grandmother told me once that families are like trains and each generation should be better than the last, improving in every way, growing in strength and positive energy sent out into the world as each generation moves closer to the engine, the ultimate source of power in this train we call life.

Train outside Eaton, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

We can teach our children, grandchildren, and other family members to speak and act with compassion, kindness and love--through example--so they can teach the same to their families and each generation will serve to build a better world. Yes, we can. 

My grandchildren, Eli and Layla, waiting for the train.

"But wait," you might say to me, "That engine driving this world can be good or bad!" As each generation in my family moves closer to that engine, I want to make sure that it is better than the last. That is not to say my ancestors were bad, but that I want every member of my family to continue to add positive energy to the world, and the only way I can assist in this movement is by watching my words, to make good comments, positive, loving, compassionate comments. Good for me. Good for them. Good for the world. We can choose to send positive energy to drive that train! 
Some Things Last Forever

The words I speak and have spoken will affect my relationships with my family for the rest of their lives, including the apologies I make. I must tread carefully, making sure that my words and actions always express my love to the best of my ability, and if they don't, I must make sure that I make amends. If my words and actions are broadcast in front of 300 people, that becomes almost impossible...and that is why, as I said before, I promised myself that I would never speak poorly of a family or friend on Facebook, or any other social media. If it's not good for you, it's not good for them. Don't do it. If you can't stop, then opt out of social media. It is that simple. 

If someone told me I had the chance to offer one piece of advice to all of my friends and family, that would be it--be kind to your family and friends on social media. Do not air your dirty laundry in public because it leaves a stain that you will never wash out. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Forgiveness as Defined in the Bible

Photos by Darla Sue Dollman.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth." --I Corinthians 13:4-6, The Bible

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." --Luke 6:37, The Bible

"When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” --Luke 23:33-34, The Bible

"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."--Colossians 3:13, The Bible

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Empathy: Why I Became a Vegetarian

Gentleman Bud. Buddy has more ability to show empathy than most humans I've known. He is an eight-year-old chocolate lab and 100 pounds of pure love. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

My dog, Buddy, is one of the most compassionate and loving animals I've ever known, especially with other animals. He listens carefully to the sounds made by other animals and responds appropriately. Years ago, my son had a dog named Brewser, a much smaller chocolate lab who had seizures when he was afraid. I've posted before on my Blessed Little Creatures blog about the fact that when we adopt animals we have no way of knowing about their past and sometimes they come with burdens too great for them to bear, just like humans. Brewser was such an animal. When Brewser became frightened he cried like a child. 

Buddy, Baby, who was rescued from the New Mexico desert, and Buddy's sister, Holly watching Dad cook (they're not begging, really, just supervising). Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

When this happened at our home, Buddy crawled "commando-style" to Brewser's side, moving softly, quietly, through the gunfire in Brewser's mind to remain undetected, and when he reached Brewser he licked his nose and make soft, comforting sounds until Brewser stopped shaking. Brewser's body language showed fear. Buddy read that fear and responded with compassion. We never knew what happened to Brewser to create such intense feelings in him. We still don't know what happened to Buddy that helps him connect empathetically to other creatures in ways that some humans find impossible to do. 

Baby, Buddy, Holly and Chewy--the "pack"--waiting for Dad to come in the door. They jump up when they hear his truck in the driveway. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

What I do know is my personal experience in watching Buddy connect with other animals and humans has reinforced in me my dedication to vegetarianism. I know animals have emotions. I know, in my heart, that animals have the right to be treated with kindness and compassion. We are their caretakers, and that is a great responsibility. When I see photos of men beating sick and frightened cattle it makes me want to vomit, and anyone who is capable of feeling empathy should feel the same way, but this IS our food industry. It is cruel and abusive, and it must be changed.

Why I Became a Vegetarian
I have been a vegetarian since I was a teenager and collected quotes on vegetarianism for many years, posting them in my journals, writing about the thoughts and feelings they inspired. There are many aspects to the issue of vegetarianism, including compassion for all living creatures, which addresses the treatment of animals before they are slaughtered and suffering and pain they endure; the perceived need to eat animal flesh to survive; and the ethical issues involved in taking the life of another living creature. 

Deer in Kingsland, Texas. During hunting season they often come into town seeking safe haven. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

These quotes cover many of these issues. They form a statement of sorts, an explanation of why I have taken a vow to never intentionally harm another living creature. I am not perfect, I sometimes fail in my goal not to harm, but I do try my very best, and these quotes are my inspiration.


Author Rai Aren--Rai Aren is the author Secrets of the Sand, an archaeology adventure, historical fiction novel and Amazon Kindle bestseller. Her book received the silver medal in the 2009 Readers Fiction-Mystery category. 

One of my favorite quotes from her book: "Know that the same spark of life that is within you, is within all of our animal friends, the desire to live is the same within all of us." When asked about her decision to become a vegan, Aren replied, "I made the choice...because I will not eat (or wear, or use) anything that could have an emotional response to its death or captivity. I can well imagine what that must feel like for our non-human friends--the fear, the terror, the pain--and I will not cause such suffering to a fellow living being."

Chewy was abandoned in the forest that surrounded our house in Texas. He came to us in a thunderstorm as we were prepared our home during a tornado watch. He was hiding beneath my truck, whining, begging for shelter. He's been with us ever since, usually hiding beneath the blankets as chihuahuas love to do! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Philosopher Albert Schweitzer--Albert Schweitzer (Jan 14, 1875-Sept 4, 1965) was a German philosopher and Lutheran medical missionary who left his church position to move to Gabon in west central Africa where he founded the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Lambarene. He was the recipient of a 1952 Nobel Peace Prize for his philosophy of "Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben," which means "to be in awe of the mystery of life," or more often translated as "a reverence for life." His work at the hospital in Lambarene was his attempt to demonstrate this philosophy.

One of the baby rabbits in our neighborhood. They don't last long due to the large number of coyotes. It is hard to think about, but it is the natural cycle of life, which I do not believe includes humans. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

As Schweitzer explained, "A man is truly ethical only when he obeys the compulsion to help all lives which he is able to assist, and shrinks from injuring anything that lives." In a similar vein, which also describes his work at the hospital, he also said, "A man is ethical only when life, as such, is sacred to him, that of plants and animals as that of his fellow men, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help."

Animal Rights and Morality 

Author Henry Stephens Salt--Writer, biographer, and literary critic, Henry Stephens Salt (Sept 20, 1851-April 19, 1939) dedicated his life to fighting for the rights of animals. In his writings, he clearly distinguished between the need for better treatment of animals, an argument popular with many of his colleagues, and his belief that animals have rights. In his treatise Animal Rights, Salt said, "To live one's own life--to realize one's true self--is the highest moral purpose of man and animal alike; and that animals possess their due measure of this sense of individuality is scarcely open to doubt."

Mohandas K. Gandhi, 1940s, photographer unknown, public domain.

Salt was also an acquaintance of Mohandas Gandhi. In a letter Salt wrote to Gandhi in 1890, he summarized his feelings about the connection between humanitarianism and vegetarianism when he said, "I cannot see how there can be any real and full recognition of kinship as long as men continue either to eat or cheat their fellow beings. In 1931, Gandhi appeared before the Vegetarian Society and explained that, "It was Mr. Salt's book, A Plea for Vegetarianism, which showed me why, apart from my adherence to a vow administered to me by my mother, it was right to be a vegetarian. He showed me why it was a moral duty incumbent on vegetarians not to live upon fellow-animals."

Canadian Goose at sunset. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Author Isaac Bashevis Singer--Polish born, Jewish-American author Isaac Bashevis Singer (Nov 21, 1902-July 24, 1991) is known as a leader in the Yiddish literary movement and a recipient of a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978. He was also awarded two National Book Awards; one in Children's Literature for his memoir: A Day of Pleasure: Stories of a Boy Growing Up in Warsaw; and Fiction for his collection A Crown of Feathers and Other Stories. Singer is also believed to be one of the most powerful pro-animal voices of the 20th century.

Kissing Doves in Rio Rancho, NM. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Singer explained his decision to become a vegetarian quite clearly: "My vegetarianism is a great protest, and I dream that there may be a whole religion based on protest...against everything which is not just: about the fact that there is so much sickness, so much death, so much cruelty. My vegetarianism is my religion, and it's part of my protest against the conduct of the world." He also viewed vegetarianism as a moral issue. As he explained, "People often say that humans have always eaten animals, as if this is a justification for continuing the practice. According to this logic, we should not try to prevent people from murdering other people, since this has also been done since the earliest of times." My favorite Singer quote, though, is: "I didn't become a vegetarian for my health, I did it for the health of the chickens!"


Activist Thich Nhat Hanh--One of my favorite authors, Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk and acclaimed author of more than 100 books, including the bestselling True Love. He is also active in the peace movement and was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr. Thich Nhat Hanh said that "Even if we cannot be completely non-violent, by being vegetarian we are going in the direction of non-violence."

Layla Lou our house bunny. She was found beneath our trailer, dehydrated, covered in bugs and with her ribs showing beneath her fur. Now she's fat and sassy. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

He also advocates vegetarianism to protect the health of our planet. In his book, The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology he wrote, "By eating meat we share the responsibility of climate change, the destruction of our forests, and the poisoning of our air and water. The simple act of becoming a vegetarian will make a difference in the health of our planet." In the forward to Joan Halifax's exploration of Buddhism: The Fruitful Darkness: A Journey Through Buddhist Practice and Tribal Wisdom, he wrote, "Being vegetarian here also means that we do not consume dairy and egg products, because they are products of the meat industry. If we stop consuming, they will stop producing. Only collective awakening can create enough determination for action."

Another baby bunny. We do have many here in New Mexico! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Author Jonathan Safran Foer--Jonathan Safran Foer is a prolific writer as well as an animal activist. Foer was the recipient of the Zoetrope All-Story Fiction Prize in 2000; the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award in 2003; and was included in Granta's Best of Young American Novelists in 2007. He is also the author of the controversial 2009 non-fiction novel Eating Animals, exposing the horrors of slaughterhouses and exploring the issues of factory farming and commercial fisheries. In Eating Animals, Foer says, "Perhaps in the back of our minds we already understand, without all the science I've discussed, that something terribly wrong is happening. Our sustenance now comes from misery. We know that if someone offers to show us a film on how our meat is produced, it will be a horror film. We perhaps know more than we care to admit, keeping it down in the dark places of our memory--disavowed. When we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally, on tortured flesh. Increasingly, that tortured flesh is becoming our own."

Mexican Wolf. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

In this same book, the statement by Foer that perhaps has affected me the most is actually a question. "Just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else? If contributing to the suffering of billions of animals that live miserable lives and (quite often) die in horrific ways isn't motivating, what would be? If being the number one contributor to the most serious threat facing the planet (global warming) isn't enough, what is? And if you are tempted to put off these questions of conscience, to say now now, then when?"

Baby cow in Utah. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

These quotes are more than words to me, they are ideals, values, principles that I pursue as a goal. Share with me! I invite you to post your own thoughts and favorite quotes on vegetarianism in the comment section below.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Doctor: Compassion in Health Care

William Hurt signing autographs at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival while promoting History of Violence. Photograph by sheksay (Tony Shek).

In 1988, Random House published Dr. Edward Rosenbaum's book A Taste of my Own Medicine, a biographical account of his experience as a doctor who develops throat cancer and is suddenly forced to understand life as a patient instead of a doctor. 

The film version was released in 1991 by Touchstone Pictures, directed by Randa Haines and starring Academy Award Winners William Hurt and Christine Lahti, and Golden Globe Nominees Mandy Patinkin and Elizabeth Perkins. The film is emotionally stunning. The first time I watched it I knew it had the potential to impact the American medical system in a profound way, but it was overshadowed by the simultaneous release of Regarding Henry, starring Harrison Ford. 

Sometimes I think we need film activists to fight for the promotion of movies like The Doctor, movies so powerful they have the ability to create change, (though the same argument could be made for Regarding Henry).

The Plot of The Doctor and how it Reflects Reality

In The Doctor, William Hurt plays Dr. Jack McKee, one of the top surgeons at what appears to be a teaching hospital. At the beginning of the movie he is shown speaking to a group of interns, explaining to them that they should avoid any emotional connection with the patients. He also has a brief conversation with his partner, Dr. Murray Kaplan, played by Mandy Patinkin. Kaplan is apparently being sued and he wants McKee to meet with him so they can "get their stories straight," as they have before, he implies, in similar situations. McKee calmly agrees.

The opening scenes of this film are vitally important to understanding the meaning of this film. McKee's behavior, and that of his partner, often resembles that of a sociopath with the lack of empathy and remorse; refusal to take responsibility for the effects their actions have on the lives of others; changing their image to avoid prosecution; shallow emotions; and grandiose sense of self. 

Mandy Patinkin on January 13, 2012, outside the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. Photo by Bearian.

McKee is next shown in a surgical setting with his partner assisting. It is a relaxed setting with loud music and inappropriate comments made about the patient who is under sedation. This was particularly disturbing to me as I experienced a minor procedure once while under sedation and I could hear and remember everything that was said about me up to the point that the doctor realized I was still awake and listening, and it was not pleasant. 

It Starts With a Cough

McKee's sociopathic tendencies become even more evident when he realizes he is sick and needs treatment. As with most illnesses, McKee's cancer first shows with a simple cough. He clears his throat. Later, returning from a dinner party with his wife, he has a coughing fit in the car. He has a biopsy, which is positive for cancer. 

McKee makes an appointment with a surgeon--keep in mind this is a woman who has the same job he does--and the doctor is just as cold and rude as he is to his own patients. McKee is shocked, offended that she would treat him this way, and yet, this is how he has trained other doctors to treat patients--he is no longer the doctor. 

A Name on a Chart

McKee tries to find out the results of his tests and is forced to wait a ridiculous amount of time. He again is angry. He works at the hospital! He demands his tests and makes a scene. Another patient, June Ellis, played by Elizabeth Perkins, makes it clear to him that his behavior is rude and inappropriate as everyone else in the room is also waiting for their tests, also have jobs and families and places they need to be, and they've been waiting longer than he has for their tests. 

McKee calms down and asks about her diagnosis and when she tells him about her diagnosis, an inoperable brain tumor. McKee lies and tells her his father once had a patient with the same diagnosis who survived. She is offended and later confronts him about the lie. He is embarrassed. He tries to explain that he was only trying to help her feel better, but he is beginning to realize that he has no idea how to connect with people. He has spent so many years building an emotional wall between himself and others that he is completely lost. 

He is also beginning to notice that his colleagues, and coworkers who were of a lower hierarchical status in the medical professions, are treating him differently now that he has become a patient. 

Abrupt Role Reversal

McKee's role has been reversed overnight and he's had no time to adjust. That's the way it is with illness. There is never time to adjust to the fact that overnight as the patient suddenly loses all social status, respect, and dignity, and becomes a name and set of numbers on a chart.

He does try to adjust, though. Slowly, McKee begins to empathize with the other patients. He learns the names of other patients. He recognizes the cold and impersonal treatment of the medical personnel, and it can get pretty cold in a hospital when a patient is in a gown with their fanny exposed! He experiences things that anyone who has ever been in a hospital can relate to, such as trying to make a comment to a nurse or compliment a technician and have them ignore the comment or act as if the patient is not even in the room while they are sticking needles and tubes into the patient's body and drawing blood from his or her veins. This behavior, ignoring the patient, refusing to respond to comments, acting as if the patient is not even there is a form of bullying and can be emotionally devastating to a patient. McKee sees all of this, and he takes it all in, absorbs it, feels it, and begins to change even more. 

He sees a man struggling with his car. The man is locked out of his car. McKee realizes this man is the same patient suing his partner. The man is in pain, angry, frustrated. McKee's colleagues tell him the man is crazy--yes, you guessed it, more bullying--and advise him to walk away. It is clear that every aspect of this poor man's life has been destroyed, not just by his suffering and pain from the mistakes made by Dr. Kaplan, McKee's partner, but by the denial, the lie. This is not only clear to the audience, but suddenly, to McKee, as well, who helps the man with his car. 

The Lie 

We are taught in our society that we cannot heal ourselves, that we must turn to medical "professionals" for help. The person, or patient, is frightened, suffering, confused by the barrage of terms, overwhelmed with bills, and most of all, vulnerable. 

When medical professionals fail to help, or make the situation worse, and respond with bullying, abuse, and lies as they do in this film, then collaborate to literally "gang up" against their patients with more lies when the case goes to court--as it often must so the patient can afford the help he or she will need for the remainder of his or her life--the effects are devastating and not surprisingly, often lead to patient suicide, at which point the medical professionals respond by claiming the patient had mental issues from the start. 

This is actually typical behavior of bullies and abusers documented in spousal abuse studies. Perhaps it is time that cases like the one presented in this film require a mental examination of the doctors, as well, and laws forbidding doctors to discuss the case in advance so they can work on a lie, which is what Kaplan asks of McKee throughout the film. I believe it is time that an appropriate, compassionate beside manner is taught and demanded of medical professionals.   

The Disappearance

McKee's friendship with Ellis deepens even though he knows she is going to die. He is taking a great risk with his emotions, and he does so willingly. He has clearly changed from the man he was as a doctor and become a patient, a person, a human being. However, there are still many connections he has made in his life that he has failed to build into relationships, such as the connection with his wife, his partner, and his students.

When Ellis mentions that she has always wanted to see a specific Native American Indian show, McKee surprises her by trying to drive her to the show, which proves to be too much for her. He has forgotten to inform his wife of his plans, though. He has bonded emotionally as a patient, but still failed to connect with other people, even the most important people in his life. His wife is struggling to understand the sudden changes in her husband, but he has become a stranger to her, a man she's never met before, and she is understandably frightened and concerned.

Cancer as a Metaphor

The radiation treatments do not stop McKee's cancer. It is destroying his vocal cords. The cancer is also destroying the man he once was and he must change completely in order to survive. The disease has become a metaphor for McKee's life, even though it is killing him. It will kill him metaphorically. It must in order to destroy the old Dr. McKee so a new man can emerge.

McKee finally confronts his doctor, calls her out on her cold, callous behavior and ends their doctor/patient relationship. He then turns to another doctor, Eli Bloomfield played by Adam Arkin. It is clearly a difficult conversation for McKee as he admits that he and his partner, Kaplan, often mocked Bloomfield, which brings in another issue of bullying in the workplace as discussed in my last post and the many reasons this takes place.

McKee begins his conversation with Bloomfield with an apology, which is a big step for him, then asks Bloomfield to perform the surgery on his vocal cords. Bloomfield replies with a joke, saying, "Well, Jack, I've always wanted to slit your throat." Bloomfield smiles, and his smile tells it all. Bloomfield is McKee's foil in the plot. Where McKee and his partner are the bullies of the hospital, Bloomfield is the voice of compassion in the workplace, which makes him the target of bullying and abuse by the other doctors for many reasons including power, control, and psychological issues.

The Trade-Off

June Ellis dies. As a writer, I knew this had to happen. She is the sacrifice. Her death is necessary to make McKee's transformation complete. She is the caterpillar who disappears, and the healed McKee is the butterfly that emerges. Her death is, of course, devastating to McKee who no longer displays the personality traits of a sociopath. Ellis leaves him a private letter that speaks from the heart and provides even more fuel for change. He empathizes. He understands. He hurts. He clearly loved Ellis, not on a romantic level, but as a friend and as a fellow human being.

McKee is told that his cancer is completely gone, and we, as intelligent viewers, realize he had to recover because the disappearance of the cancer, his healing, is vital to his complete transformation. Of course, there is always the chance that cancer will return, but as a viewer you can almost hear the victims of bullying in the audience sigh with relief when McKee discovers he will survive because it has now become clear that he is a permanently changed man and we know that in the end scenes he will also change his ways in the hospital and his personal life.

A New Man

When McKee returns home he cannot speak. He uses a chalkboard to communicate with his wife. They both quickly discover she is not ready to accept him into their home, a place that has become her solace, her private space while he works ridiculous hours (yes, I do believe we expect way too much of doctors and invite potentially deadly mistakes from exhaustion), attends parties, meetings, and even disappears with fellow patients. Anne makes it clear to her husband that she no longer knows who he is, not only because he has changed through the process of the illness, but also because they have grown apart through years of relationship neglect. 

McKee uses a bell and his chalkboard to communicate his regret and his desire to begin again in a heart-wrenching scene as he chases his wife through the house, begging for a second chance, but to Anne, he is even more of a stranger. His desperation is clear and his performance at this point Oscar-worthy. He needs her, he tells her, and we, the audience, know this is true, more than ever. 

McKee eventually returns to work. He has transformed. He confronts his partner with the fact that Kaplan did, in fact, make a terrible mistake and should take responsibility for his actions. Kaplan is stunned. McKee, however, has a clear conscience because he now has a conscience! 

McKee then meets with his students. He instructs the interns to change into medical gowns, exposing their own fannies to the world, leaving them completely vulnerable, essentially and metaphorically naked and exposed as their patients will be when they become doctors. 

McKee has files in his hands with the titles of various illnesses written on the front. He tells the patients that in the following weeks, instead of following him around (as he makes snide remarks about patients and other doctors and instructs them to keep an emotional distance), they will now become the patients, each with a specific illness. He orders the appropriate tests for each intern so they will know how it feels when a nurse sticks a needle in their arm, ignores their small talk, pretends they are invisible. They will live the experience of being a patient. They will feel the pain. 

I believe this film should be required viewing for anyone who works in a medical profession. I believe it represents a flaw in the system. No, it is more like an open wound that festers and is growing more deadly with time. The new, transformed Dr. McKee represents the many medical professionals who know that it is time for a change, that there is a desperate need for compassionate care in medical settings. These men and women, in my mind, are heroes.   

May God bless them, each and every one.    

  • The Doctor. Dir. Randa Haines. Perf. William Hurt; Christine Lahti; Elizabeth Perkins; Mandy Patinkin; Alan Arkin. Touchstone Pictures: 1991.

Compassion in Medicine: Why Medical Professions Attract Bullies and how to Stop Them

 Dust storm in New Mexico obscures the Sandia Mountains.

"We decided to move to New Mexico so we could live near our children. During the move, a dust storm kicked up that was so severe the highways were closed. We had to stay at a motel. 

We finally arrived, unpacked, met our neighbors. Oddly, I developed a cough right after we moved, and noticed one of our dogs was coughing, too. I felt like I was coming down with the flu. I woke up in the middle of the night soaked in sweat. My body ached. I was worried about my dog, though, preoccupied with her health as she is an old girl, a bit fragile. I made an appointment to take her to the local vet, then she stopped coughing. I, however, did not. I also could not find a general practitioner to take my insurance. In fact, it took nearly four months to find a general practitioner. 

I finally reached the point where I was so sick that my husband took me to the nearby emergency room. They told me I appeared to have pneumonia, but they had car accident victims coming in so they didn't run tests, they gave me antibiotics instead. I had a severe reaction to the antibiotics and was taken back to the emergency room by ambulance. They hooked me up to an I.V. They checked me in, then rolled my chair beneath the loud television. I was trembling, vomiting, in tremendous pain in my chest, stomach, and back. I asked them to move me, but they said they needed to watch me."

Hospital wheelchairs are not comfortable, and are not built for hours of use by people in extreme pain. Photo by  Artaxerxes Michael J. Farrand.

"Soon, the waiting room filled and one by one patients were taken back to be seen. I was sobbing, I was so sick, in so much pain. One of the patients argued with the receptionist. "Please, take that woman in first," he said. "We were waiting over an hour and she was here with an empty I.V. bag when we arrived. She's sobbing. She can't hold still because she's in so much pain." The receptionist explained that they treat patients according to the severity of the problem.

And then the room was empty. I watched as the kind young man left the ER, shrugged and smiled a sad, apologetic smile at me, then walked out the door. Then everyone left the reception area. It was 45 minutes later when I finally stood and called for someone to remove my I.V. A young man came out and seemed surprised to see me. I knew then that I was either intentionally or accidentally forgotten, left for hours sitting beneath the blasting television, sobbing. I told him to remove the empty I.V. bag from my arm or I would take it out myself. He told me he was just going to try and find someone to treat me--after four hours and an ambulance ride I was supposed to believe someone finally decided I might need help? My teeth were chattering so hard I thought I chipped a tooth! My entire body was screaming with pain from trembling and shaking for so long and I vomited so much I was having dry heaves! I told him to remove the I.V., I was going home. He called a cab for me."

"My condition did not improve and I asked my former insurance representative from Texas to help me find a doctor, but he was also unsuccessful. I still had the cough, flu symptoms, night sweats, headaches, chest pain, muscle aches. Then one afternoon I woke up with so much pain in my chest and such a sever migraine that I thought my head was going to explode. My husband rushed me to the hospital. This time, because I had "Chest Pain," they took me right in. We could hear a woman shouting in a room down the hall. She sounded like she was on drugs. We could hear staff shouting back at her. The atmosphere was tense. 

A few minutes later a nurse came in and told me she was going to treat my headache. She didn't speak clear English. I tried to explain to her that I wanted to make sure someone was going to check my other symptoms. She looked confused and left the room without giving me medication."

Guantanamo Captive's Hospital Beds. Photo  by Department of Defense, public domain. 

Then a nurse practitioner came into the room. She leaned over the bed and started shouting at me. "When I send a nurse in with a needle full of medication she damn well better come back out with an empty needle," she said. She was leaning over the bed, shouting in my face. I felt threatened, frightened, and started shaking uncontrollably. I could feel my heart pounding in my throat, ears, head, body. "If I give an order, those orders are followed, and no one is going to tell me otherwise," she shouted, and she continued to shout, generally repeating herself. My husband remained in his chair. He later told me he was afraid that if he stood up she would claim HE was acting in a threatening manner. He quietly tried to interrupt, to explain that I simply asked if someone was going to check my other symptoms and not just treat the headache, but she raised up her hand so she couldn't see his face. So...I did the same. I raised up my hand so she was no longer spitting on my face when she shouted. I placed my hand over my face so I couldn't see her. With my other hand, I made a peace sign and waved it back and forth. I never said a word." 

"This seemed to shock her out of her tirade. She left the room. The nurse returned and gave me the shot. The nurse practitioner returned an hour later and asked me questions that I was no longer in any condition to answer--that was why I wanted the exam before the pain shot. She ordered some tests. We waited another hour and asked if we could leave. We were told we had to wait for the test results. My husband asked a total of five times if we could leave and each time he was given the same answer. Every time I came out to go to the bathroom the nurse practitioner and her staff stopped what they were doing, turned and glared at me. 

Finally, after four hours, a male doctor came in the room. He stood in the doorway, crossed his arms and said, "We are not giving you any more drugs." My husband was stunned. "We were told we were waiting for test results," he said. "The nurse said she thought my wife was having a reaction to the antibiotics from an earlier visit." The doctor continued to stare me down, refusing to look at my husband. "The tests take days, and we are not giving you any more drugs," he repeated. This time, my husband stood up. "We have been waiting for hours to leave," he said. "We are leaving now!" The doctor said he would get my papers to sign me out. We called a few days later to ask for the test results and we were told there were no tests." I asked to speak to someone to make a complaint. They sent a letter two months later claiming it never happened."

"The next week, one of my doctors from Texas finally located a doctor who was taking new patients and took my insurance. We explained my ongoing symptoms, the cough that was now months old, the night sweats, flu symptoms. He suggested menopause, allergies, I told him my doctor in Texas was very thorough and I was tested for all of these before leaving that state because of migraines. My husband then told the doctor what happened in the Er and asked for help finding those original tests. The doctor called a nurse in and she had them in her hands five minutes later. She had pulled them off the computer. 

The doctor told us he had spent an hour talking to a doctor at that same hospital earlier that day--one doctor out of thousands in that system--and he thought we "may have misjudged the situation." That doctor spent the next three appointments trying to psychoanalyze me every time I tried to discuss my symptoms. This went on for months. I finally picked up my purse without saying a word and left. He later wrote a report claiming we were arguing over medications--a blatant lie. We weren't arguing at all. He would talk so much when we came to see him--and I was always very careful to take my husband as a witness--that I often wondered if the doctor knew I was in the room!"      

My symptoms continued for the next 18 months. Sometimes they seemed to get better, sometimes they were worse. I was given antibiotics a few times and they made me so sick I was always in the ER for help. One doctor tested my blood and did an ultrasound, told me I had an enlarged bile duct, then she repeated the blood tests. We heard her talking in the hall about possible cancer. She referred me to a Gastroenterologist who did many tests, found lesions on various body organs, but nothing to confirm a cancer diagnosis. Another doctor also found lesions--a sign of Valley Fever. I was finally told about a disease called Valley Fever. That same night I had another reaction to an antibiotic. 

My husband begged the ER doctor for over an hour to test me for Valley Fever and he finally did. I tested low, but positive. I was told by one doctor that I have Valley Fever and by another that the disease had disseminated throughout my body. Another doctor became livid when I told her I was diagnosed with Valley Fever, shouting and throwing papers around her desk, angry that she could not find my tests, angry that I would suggest such a thing when I had not seen a pulmonary specialist. I did not say a word. I picked up my purse and left the room as I have learned to do whenever a doctor in New Mexico becomes violent--if you respond, they will refuse treatment, but they have the right to treat you in any way they please. This doctor makes certain that her report claiming I don't have Valley Fever is sent out whenever I see a doctor. I still have not received treatment for the Valley Fever. I'm still sick two years later." --Anonymous

Compassion: A Definition

According to Webster's Dictionary compassion is "a feeling of wanting to help someone who is sick, hungry, in trouble." The definition also states "a sympathetic consciousness of other's distress together with a desire to alleviate it." Most of us do not need an explanation or definition of compassion. It comes naturally to us. When we see someone suffering, our heart breaks for them and we do all we can to reach out to the suffering person and try to help. At my age, I have sadly learned that there are less people than I thought who truly understand compassion.

Through the years, in my various jobs and experiences with people, I have learned the Rule of Hypocrisy in Abuse and Bullying: If a person is bullied and abused and does not defend herself, people say she is weak, or enjoyed it, wanted it, asked for it. If that same woman does anything to defend or protect herself people say she is mean and aggressive, and deserved it, or asked for it. Once someone decided to harm you, there is nothing you can do to stop them. The target of the abuser must find a way to convince others to intervene in the situation, and even then it may not be enough to stop the abuse or prevent the abuser from harming others.

Two young refugees from Luxembourg with their pet rabbit in Surrey during 1942. Photo by Bryson Jack, Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer, in public domain.

I have always believed that compassion and kindness should be both encouraged and taught in schools. If teachers are responsible for raising the future leaders of our country, then I want to know those future leaders will, as Websters states, want to help others who are sick, hungry, and in trouble, and have a desire to alleviate the distress of others. In my opinion, that should be included in the job description of politicians, teachers, and others.

Compassionate Care

"Others" includes medical personnel. I believe that a compassionate "bedside manner" should be required education for medical professionals. I recently read an article in the The International Journal of Person Centered Medicine: "Compassionate care enhancement: benefits and outcomes" by Stephen G. Post, PhD. According to Post, a review of his study showed that compassionate care was beneficial to patients with regard to wound healing, satisfaction and well-being. It also showed that compassionate care benefits physicians by lowering depression rates, burnout, and increasing more diligent care. Compassionate care benefits medical students as demonstrated by decreased complaints about abuse in clinical environments and team interactions. Therefore, compassionate care benefits the health care system's reputation as a whole.

Post clearly understands hospital settings, particularly emergency room settings where patients come when they are desperate and cannot receive the necessary care from their general practitioner or a community clinic. According to Post, "The care of a patient is both a science and an art. It is on the one hand the competent application of science; on the other hand it is the art of being attentively and fully present to the patient in a manner that facilitates well being, security, treatment adherence and healing. Compassionate care is the essence of this art."

Bullies and Medical Careers

Unfortunately, there is a segment of the population who find it impossible to show compassion. They are referred to as "bullies," but in a way this could be considered name-calling, which is a form of bullying. Bullies require re-education and training to teach them to communicate effectively with others in their community.

According to another study conducted at the University of Chicago using MRIs of the brains of bullies, it's possible that bullies cannot be re-educated. The study shows a "disruption in the natural empathetic response. In other words, in spite of the fact that most bullies spend their time calling other people "crazy," it's their brains that are wired differently. They actually derive pleasure from seeing others in pain.

So, what does this have to do with medical professionals? Plenty. According to John S. Murray, author of "Workplace Bullying in Nursing: A Problem That Can't be Ignored" in the Journal of the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses, bullying in nursing has become a "serious problem." Murray defines bullying by medical professionals as "verbal abuse, threats, humiliating or intimidating behaviors." He also explains that bullying behaviors create feelings of defenselessness in the victim and significantly demoralize his or her right to dignity."

So, if this is the result of bullying between nurses, imagine the result on patients when they are bullied by nurses and other medical professionals or hospital personnel. Imagine how a patient feels when they file a complaint, understanding that mistakes can happen, that even medical professionals can have a bad day, and all they want is to make sure another patient is not subjected to the same treatment, and instead they are told the event never occurred. The patient is helpless, suffering, in pain, seeks help at the only place we are taught in our society is a safe place to go when a person is in a potentially dangerous situation, and they are neglected, ignored, bullied, abused, then called a liar by administrators.

According to a 1990 study by Pediatric Physician Henry K. Silver, 46.6% of medical students were abused at some point during their education process and by the time they were seniors, 80.6% who chose to remain in that field of study reported bullying and abuse. This abuse was found to be heirarchical--doctor to nurse; nurse to patient.

According to Murray, nurses may bully for various reasons, not all of them heirarchical. For instance, they may bully each other and patients because they feel the need to control all aspects of their work environment. The perpetrator--doctor, nurse, or any medical professional--may have a personality flaw, such as psychopathic tendencies, or an exaggerated sense of self, therefore lacking the ability to feel remorse for their abusive treatment of others.

Bullying incidents also follow the same pattern with professionals as they do with children. There is a sterotype of a weak victim, the belief that the victim is inadequate and somehow deserves to be bullied, but growing evidence points to the fact that bullies often choose targets who make them feel inadequate and their actions are driven by jealousy or envy. In schools, doctors and nurses bully the highest performing students. In the workplace, they target the highest performing professionals, or patients who make them feel inferior or insecure.

Dangers to Patients

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices conducted a survey in 2004 and discovered that nearly half of health care personnel surveyed said they would keep silent rather than question medication orders from a difficult doctor due to workplace bullying. An additional 7% admitted that they were involved in a medication error in the past year and that bullying and intimidation was responsible. The study suggests a rise in 200,000 avoidable medical errors and consequential 200,000 avoidable deaths per year due to bullying.

What can be done?

This question will be addressed more fully in further posts, but the Institute for Safe Medication Practices also makes suggestions. They suggest that healthcare organizations create a "code of conduct and values. The code should encourage behaviors that safeguard team cohesion and staff morale, sense of self-worth, and safety." The ISMP also suggests a conflict resolution process, but these can be tricky if they involve one colleague judging another. They can also be completely ineffective. The ISMP suggests "a conflict resolution process that ensures effective communication, protects patients, and strictly enforces a zero tolerance policy for intimidation, regardless of the offender’s standing in the organization." Unfortunately, this journalist has found that most conflict resolution processes involve one nurse sitting down and talking to another or one doctor talking to another. It rarely, if ever, involves input from the patient, nurse, or person who was victimized during the bullying process.


  • "Bullies may enjoy seeing others in pain: Brain scans show disruptions in natural empathic response." UChicago New. The University of Chicago. Posted November 7, 2008. Accessed January 19, 2014.
  • Post, PhD. Stephen G. "Compassionate care enhancement: benefits and outcomes." The International Journal of Person Centered Medicine.
  • "Survey Shows Workplace Intimidation Adversely Affects Patient Safety." Institute for Safe Medication Processes. Press Release: March 31, 2004.