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Health Care Bullies Harming Patients

As evidenced by recent published reports, health care professionals who throw tantrums, hurl insults, speak in condescending tones, ignore the questions of others, and generally bully their co-workers are contributing to medical mistakes and putting patients at risk.

A survey 4,530 health care workers done by VHA Inc. has revealed that:

  • 77 percent of workers have witnessed disruptive, unprofessional behavior by physicians;
  • 65 percent have witnessed similar behavior by nurses;
  • 71 percent say such behaviors have contributed to medical errors as a result of pressure, confusion, or disruption associated with these outbursts; and
  • 27 percent say that these behaviors have contributed to errors that resulted in patient deaths.

In an April USA Today article, Peter Angood, CEO of the American College of Physician Executives, reportedly contended that the impact of workplace bullies on health care was very significant. In fact, executives at health care companies nationwide have been paying more attention to the problem after an accreditation body for health care providers published standards for preventing and dealing with “behaviors that undermine a culture of safety” in 2009.

The book, “Taming Disruptive Behavior,” co-authored by Chicago psychologist Marty Martin, also describes growing evidence of patient harms associated with bad workplace behaviors, noting particular instances of common medical problems tied to workplace bullying.

Other experts have reached the same conclusions after similar studies. The author of an analytical study on medical bullying published in the journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing, concluded that “ignoring bad behavior has potentially serious consequences for patients.”

In that study, about 70 percent of nurses reportedly viewed some kind of links between disruptive behavior and adverse outcomes, and nearly 25 percent said there was a direct tie between the bad acts and patient mortality.

A 2004 study of workplace intimidation by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) in Horsham, Pa., similarly found that roughly 40 percent of clinicians have quietly ignored concerns about improper medication rather than talking to an intimidating colleague.

If you think that you or a loved one may have been adversely affected by health care rendered in a hostile, intimidating and unsafe environment, please do not hesitate to contact our office at (312) 477-2500 to speak with a qualified medical malpractice attorney who can advise you about well-known and underpublicized hostile workplace issues while providing you with counsel regarding protection and vindication of your rights. You can also check out our Website for more information about our law firm, Cogan & Power, P.C.