Doctors Behaving Unprofessionally Can Lead to Medical Errors

Disruptive BehaviorPerhaps one of the least considered reason for medical errors is the relationship between medical providers. But patient damages from healthcare providers' poor workplace conduct can be substantial.

Disruptive behavior is a general term for unprofessional actions by physicians and nurses, including yelling at and threatening others, as well as refusing assigned tasks. In 2012, The Joint Commission, a non-profit organization that accredits and certifies U.S. health care organizations, provided a caveat of medical providers' disruptive behaviors as those that "undermine the culture of safety."

In 2008, The Joint Commission published an in-depth study of physicians and nurses' disruptive behaviors and their effects on patient care. The survey included 102 hospitals and almost 1,000 doctors, 3,000 nurses, and 40 administrators.

The survey findings on medical providers' disruptive behaviors included:

  • 77 percent of the respondents said they had seen disruptive behavior by physicians
  • 65 percent said they witnessed disruptive behavior by nurses
  • Surgeons had the highest percentage of disruptive events
  • 94 percent of the respondents said that disruptive behavior led to frustration
  • 99 percent said that disruptive behavior led to bad relationships between doctors and nurses

The last two points reveal fractures within medical teams that can lead to patient harm. The survey findings included a sampling of respondents' actual workplace experiences that illustrate this danger:

  • Disruptive behavior led to medication errors as well as treatment errors
  • Poor post-op communication led to delayed treatment and the patient's death
  • Nurses' reluctance to call a physician with a track record of disruptive behavior, placing patients' treatment in jeopardy
  • A physician's disruptive behavior that could force a nurse to lose concentration and make a medical error

More specifically, the respondents identified a cause-and-effect relationship between physicians' disruptive behavior and poor patient care:

  • 71 percent linked disruptive behavior to medical errors
  • 71 percent linked disruptive behavior to adverse patient events
  • 21 percent said they felt there was a connection between medical care providers' disruptive behavior and patient deaths

In August 2014, The Journal of the American Medical Association revisited this subject, indicating that bad physician behavior seemingly is on the rise, either because more doctors are acting badly or because more people are increasingly sensitive to it.

The majority of health care providers are competent, caring professionals. But some make mistakes that critically harm their patients. Attorneys experienced in conducting medical malpractice investigations represent the legal rights of the surviving families of victims of catastrophic medical errors by determining what went wrong and why. If you believe you lost a family member due to medical error, you may want to consult such an attorney.

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