Fewer Hospitals Are Tolerating Disruptive Doctors

Here’s a surprising fact: A lot of hospital staff members – particularly nurses - suffer from low morale, stress, and high turnover rates because of arrogant, abusive, and obnoxious doctors! In fact, one-third of nurses say they know somebody who quit their job because of a doctor’s bad behavior. According to The New York Times, there are stories of extremes, like several nurses who had to duck scalpels thrown across an operating room by an angry surgeon. However, staffers are more likely to be belittled, insulted, or yelled at – often in front of patients and other staff members.  

Dr. William Norcross runs an anger management program for physicians. He says that about 4% of doctors are abusive, and the leading offenders are in high-pressure fields, like neurosurgery, orthopedics and cardiology. Dr. Norcross blames the behavior on brutal training practices, like the long hours, and the tradition of supervising doctors belittling medical students, and bombarding them with questions until they look stupid. He says it creates a hostile working environment that newly-minted doctors think is normal and acceptable. However, the uproar hurts patient care!

In a recent survey of nonprofit hospitals in North America, 67% of health care workers said there’s a link between disruptive behavior and medical mistakes. Forty percent of hospital workers say they were so intimidated that they didn’t speak up when they thought a doctor ordered the wrong medication, or knew a surgeon was about to operate on the wrong body part! So, what’s being done to fix this?

  • Two of the 6 “core skills” now taught in medical schools and residence programs are leadership and good communication. Skills partly designed to improve relations between doctors and nurses.
  • Also, more nurses are challenging doctors on their inappropriate behavior because they know the hospital will be on their side.
  • Fewer hospitals are tolerating disruptive doctors – either getting rid of them, or sending them to anger management classes.

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