fingerWorkplace conflict can take place in many forms. Both clinical and administrative work can result in interpersonal conflict that causes frustrations which lead to a downward spiral of increasingly intense and adversarial working environments. This month in the MEdIC Series, we present the case of Sarah, a co-chief resident who is having a disagreement with her colleague David over an administrative issue. We invite you to share your thoughts and advice below.

The Concept

Inspired by the Harvard Business Review Cases and led by Dr. Teresa Chan (@TChanMD) and Dr. Brent Thoma (@Brent_Thoma), the Medical Education In Cases (MEdIC) series puts difficult medical education cases under a microscope. On the fourth Friday of the month, we pose a challenging hypothetical dilemma, moderate a discussion on potential approaches, and recruit medical education experts to provide “Gold Standard” responses. Cases and responses are be made available for download in pdf format – feel free to use them!

If you’re a medical educator with a pedagogical problem, we want to get you a MEdIC. Send us your most difficult dilemmas (guidelines) and help the rest of us bring our teaching to the next level.

The Case

Sarah was about to have a very difficult conversation. Having been a long-time mentor, she calls you one night and explains the problem she is having with her frustration clear in her voice.

“Last night, [co-chief resident] David called me up just as I was headed out for a date to tell me he was in a bind. He was calling from his call-room at the hospital saying that he had left his computer at home and couldn’t get the shift-roster out in time for the new junior resident schedule next month. The intern schedule is due out tomorrow, so he wanted me to make the whole schedule from scratch.

We recently got dinged on this matter on our recent accreditation, so our program director has been really upset with us when we’re late sending it out. I cancelled my date, rolled up my sleeves, and did it.

This morning I sent him the draft and he texts me to say he noticed that there was a double booked shift. He just texted me ‘U screwed up on 2nd Thursday in February. Can you redo it?’ Well, after that I called him to give him a piece of my mind…  He has been such a terrible teammate! But when he picks up he tells me he’s in the middle of something and couldn’t talk…  And that I’ll just have to figure it out.

All I have to say is that this is the FIRST call schedule he’s had to do ALL year. I’ve did the first two months and now it’s supposed to be his turn – and, of course, he conveniently forgets and then has the gall to order me around like I’m his personal secretary.

What should I do? I’ve got to work with him for the rest of the year, and we’ve just started.”

If you were Sarah’s mentor or confidant, how would you proceed?

Questions for Discussion

  1. How would you take Sarah through analyzing the issues?
  2. What are important points of view for Sarah to consider? What factors might she need to take into account?
  3. What is the optimal way to address this issue? What venue/format? Who should participate?
  4. Sarah is obviously very angry at David. How should Sarah deal with this?

We look forward to hearing your thoughts over the week (January 24-30, 2014). Join us online for a blog-based discussion (take a look at the comments below), or tweet us (@TChanMD or @Brent_Thoma) with your thoughts.

Weekly Wrap Up

As always, we posted the expert responses and a curated commentary derived from the community responses one week after the case was published.

Click HERE for a link to the Expert & Community responses, which include words from:

  • Dr. Nadim Lalani (@ERMentor), Assistant Program Director at the University of Saskatchewan and Emergency Physician in Saskatoon, SK, Canada. He provides EM related teaching and mentorship.
  • Dr. Bryan Judge, Program Director at the Grand Rapids Medical Education Partners Emergency Medicine program (affiliated with the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine). He is an attending Emergency Physician as well as a Clinical Toxicologist in Grand Rapids Michigan.
  • Dr. Justin Hensley (@EBMGoneWild), Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Texas A&M Health Science Center/Christus Spohn in Corpus Christi, TX. He also is an avid blogger who writes at his blog EBM Gone Wild.

All characters in this case are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.  Also, as always, we will generate a curated community commentary based on your participation below and on Twitter.  We will try to attribute names, but if you choose to comment anonymously, you will be referred to as your pseudonym in our writing.

Image: “You” by Geoffrey Fairchild (CC BY 2.0)

Teresa Chan, MD, MHPE
ALiEM Associate Editor
Emergency Physician, Hamilton
Associate Professor, McMaster University
Assistant Dean, Program for Faculty Development, McMaster University Ontario, Canada
Teresa Chan, MD, MHPE


ERDoc. #meded #FOAMed Own views expressed. Contributor to @ALiEMteam, @WeAreCanadiEM, ICE Blog, #FeminEM. @MedEdLIFE founder. Works @McMasterU & @HamHealthSci