Interns are technically doctors; they have earned their degrees. However, they still have to go through three more years' training as an intern in a residency program. What happens when the chief resident tells you, the intern, to do something you think might harm the patient? What if that patient or the patient's family sues for medical malpractice? Who takes the blame? Who is at fault? Before you begin to have serious doubts about finishing your residency training, you should know more about what actions you can take.
You Can Question the Command
If you think your chief resident is in the wrong on a medical order, you can either choose to speak to him/her privately, or you can speak to his/her boss. If the chief resident confronts you for going over his/her head, you can say that you wanted a second opinion on the matter before you carried out the order. This may make things very uncomfortable in your job, but at least you would know if you did the right thing.
In the event that the chief resident's boss says that the chief resident is in the wrong, you will need to defend your position. This is the patient's life you are trying to preserve, and you have to state the purpose of your "mutiny." If the medical treatment you want to perform will not harm the patient further but could help save the patient (and hence, avoid a malpractice suit), you should pursue it. If you are wrong, the patient sues you, and the hospital.
You Can Follow the Order
If you follow the chief resident's order, even though you question it, and the patient dies or is more seriously affected, then the patient sues more than just you. The patient sues you for following the order, sues the hospital for the level of care received, and sues the chief resident for making a poor decision and ordering you to follow through. Some risks are worth taking, if they reduce the legal issues and legal blame.
You Can Resign or Request a Transfer
If you are truly worried about your career under a chief resident that appears as though he/she is headed down a road you do not want to be on, you can resign. You can also request to be transferred to another chief resident's team or transferred to another hospital or clinic within the system. In this way, if the chief resident does make a mistake, you are not in the direct line of fire.
For additional insight or professional support, contact local medical malpractice law firms.