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Are Rude Doctors Killing Patients?

“I could have just died from embarrassment” takes on a whole new meaning

The startling results of a recent medical study reveal that a surgeon’s rude remarks to his surgical team can lead to decreased performance and sometimes death.

The Rudeness Impact Randomized Trial

Most of us were taught at a young age that it’s not nice to be rude, and life has shown us how bad it feels to be the recipient of rude behavior. But does this terrible feeling translate to poor performance of your job duties? A group of medical doctors and PhDs took it upon themselves to examine just that, and Pediatrics magazine published the study in its September 2015 issue.

The trial randomly assigned 24 neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) teams to two groups. In the control group, team members only received neutral comments during the experiment, and in the second group, team members were subjected to mildly rude comments and ill-mannered statements during the test, which were not related to how they were actually performing.

The results revealed that the rude comments had adverse effects on the procedural and diagnostic performance of the NICU team members. The team members made many mistakes: misdiagnosis, sloppy ventilation of the patient, poor resuscitation efforts. They communicated poorly, didn’t ask for needed assistance, forgot instructions and mixed up medications. What’s more, these terrible results were due to mildly rude comments. Doctors who performed the study propose that rudeness and offensive comments among medical professionals at some level contribute to the approximately 440,000 preventable injuries and deaths caused by medical mistakes in hospitals throughout the U.S each year.

Physician control

If you’re thinking that grown professionals should know enough to treat each other with respect, especially during a surgical procedure, think again. In a 2009 American College of Physician Executives study, 98% of the more than 2,000 participants reported witnessing poor behavior between physicians and nurses. Ninety-eight percent! And the most common complaint was insults and degrading comments, which was reported by close to 85% of those surveyed. Clearly, rudeness is a big problem in the medical field. Couple this with long hours, sleep deprivation, and the stress of a surgical position, and you have a recipe for disaster for the unsuspecting patient.

Snark-Free Zone

Awareness of the problem and its resulting consequences is a big factor in addressing this dangerous and prevalent issue. Hospitals and medical professionals need to acknowledge the dangers of this behavior and institute corrective measures. Next time you enter a hospital, maybe you should be looking for this sign.

At the Eisen Law Firm, our Ohio medical malpractice lawyers have seen the consequences of medical errors up close. We fight for our clients and hold negligent parties responsible. If you or someone you care for is coping with the aftermath of medical malpractice, please complete our online form or call 216-687-0900 to schedule a confidential consultation with one of our experienced and knowledgeable Cleveland medical malpractice attorneys.