"Turfing" denotes a patient transfer or triage from one physician to another when the care of that patient feels more troublesome than it is worth. A widespread phenomenon in medical training programs, turfing appears to allocate patient care to meet physicians' rather than patients' needs. Although turfing reportedly causes inter-physician discord and inter-specialty stereotyping, its deeper consequences are poorly understood. Turfing is an interpersonal conflict masquerading as a medical issue. After examining turfing alongside other patient-related slang, I analyze the distinction between "the turf," a person, and "to turf," a practice. Several explanatory models from medical practice are explored in order to illuminate turfing's implications for medical professionalism, ethics, and patient care. I suggest that a physician's medical specialty or practice type—that is, professional culture—may link to that physician's degree of altruism. If so, then what it means fundamentally to be a physician might vary across medical specialties. Such a link calls for a new notion of cultural competence, one that physicians may apply not to patients but to each other.


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pp. 136-149
Launched on MUSE
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