HBO’s “Getting On” and Workplace Bullying

409454_PA_Getting-On_27x40Given the epidemic of toxic workplaces in the healthcare industry it shouldn’t surprise viewers that the second season of HBO’s “Getting On” opened with the topic of workplace bullying front and center in a very sensitive way. As the title implies, the show takes place in a hospice center. Nurse Dawn is being pressured by her superior to help with a research project in addition to her already emotionally overwhelming job tasks.

Dawn’s immediate supervisor, Patsy De La Serda, tries to help her understand the situation she’s in:

“Dawn, I think we both know what it is. It’s Dr. James. You’re in an abusive and toxic relationship with a woman who hates women and she’s taking it out on you. I think you have difficulty maintaining firm boundaries and saying no.”

Dawn responds: “I say no to her all the time even though it’s very hard for me. It’s true that I am sensitive and it’s true that I let people take and take and take and take and I’m not very comfortable it doesn’t come natural for me to focus on me.”

Patsy counsels her: “Which is why we need to work on your mindfulness training. You can’t be solid in life unless you’re solid with yourself. I take care of me first and then you. I put my seatbelt on then yours. Mindfulness is mind fullness.” [more below]

HBO Clip

Later, during a staff meeting they open the suggestion box to find one from anonymous: “Could Doctors, especially Directors of Medicine, kindly stop abusing and coercing nurses into participating as unpaid research assistants.”

It’s clear in the conversation that follows that the Director of Medicine (Dr. James) has no clue that what she’s accused of doing is over the line or that her behavior is perceived as abusive or overbearing — in fact she quickly turns the conversation around to try to show to everyone that she’s the real victim. Dr. James also knows perfectly well that anonymous is Dawn. “I can’t even look at you,” Dawn tells her. “Because, if I look at you either I’m going to feel bad about myself again. I am allergic to you. You have psychologically overwhelmed me. I am physically ill. I am nauseous all the time. I don’t want to do your research I just want you to leave me alone so I can do my job.” Dawn leaves and Patsy tries to speak up for her as the room goes silent.

It’ll be interesting to see where Executive Producers, Mark V. Olsen & Will Scheffer take the story line. Fingers crossed they don’t go off course, our nurses could use a little TLC.

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