Objective It is known that doctors who receive complaints may have feelings of anger, guilt, shame and depression, both in the short and in the long term. This might lead to functional impairment. Less is known about the impact of the disciplinary process and imposed measures. Previous studies of disciplinary proceedings have mainly focused on identifying characteristics of disciplined doctors and on sentencing policies. Therefore, the aim of this study is to explore what impact the disciplinary process and imposed measures have on healthcare professionals.

Design Semistructured interview study, with purposive sampling and inductive qualitative content analysis.

Participants 16 healthcare professionals (9 medical specialists, 3 general practitioners, 2 physiotherapists and 2 psychologists) that were sanctioned by the disciplinary tribunal.

Setting The Netherlands.

Results Professionals described feelings of misery and insecurity both during the process as in its aftermath. Furthermore, they reported to fear receiving new complaints and provide care more cautiously after the imposed measure. Factors that may enhance psychological and professional impact are the publication of measures online and in newspapers, media coverage, the feeling of treated as guilty before any verdict has been reached, and the long duration of the process.

Conclusions This study shows that the disciplinary process and imposed measures can have a profound psychological and professional impact on healthcare professionals. Although a disciplinary measure is meant to have a corrective effect, our results suggest that the impact that is experienced by professionals might hamper optimal rehabilitation afterwards. Therefore, organising emotional support should be considered during the disciplinary process and in the period after the verdict.

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial.

doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009275, hdl.handle.net/1765/131887
BMJ Open
Health Care Governance (HCG)

Verhoef, L.M., Weenink, J-W, Winters-van der Meer, A.C.M, Robben, P.B.M, Westert, G, & Kool, R.B. (2015). The disciplined healthcare professional: a qualitative interview study on the impact of the disciplinary process and imposed measures in the Netherlands. BMJ Open, 5(e009275). doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009275