Bullying behavior increases risk of medical malpractice

Poor relationships among health care teams may directly threaten patient safety in hospitals and clinics in new jersey and across the country, according to a growing number of experts. Specifically, the problem of verbally or emotionally abusive health care providers has been studied and found to increase the risk of medical malpracticeincidents even though it is not all that uncommon. A survey of 4,000 workers in the field found that 65 percent of respondents had witnessed "disruptive behavior" by nurses, and 77 percent of respondents reported doctors engaging in disruptive behavior.

The term seems vague at first glance, but the Joint Commission defines it as "verbal outbursts and physical threats" or any other "intimidating and disruptive behaviors." Other forms of disruption are also recognized, such as lack of communication with trainees and condescension. A case brought by a perfusionist against a heart surgeon for threatening behavior highlights the problem. A $325,000 settlement against the surgeon for screaming and other threatening behavior was upheld by the courts.

The problem has prompted at least one medical center to initiate an intervention program targeting physicians. That program's director reported that only around half of physicians entering the program return to work, and about 80 percent of physicians in the program are male. A prominent psychologist who has published a book on this topic said that patients should definitely voice concerns about disruptive behavior.

Patients rightly expect medical professionals to adopt a professional attitude in the workplace. When they fail to do so, it may lead to medical errors, birth injuries and other forms of medical negligence. For New York residents who are injured due to the distraction of disruptive behavior, a medical malpractice lawsuit may provide compensation.

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