No one likes to be spoken to rudely. It’s unpleasant and unnerving. However, sometimes rudeness can harm more than your feelings. What is the impact of rudeness in medicine? A recent study shows that rudeness in a medical setting can be quite dangerous, and may even cause mistakes that can lead to patient death.
How pervasive is rudeness in medical settings?
Unfortunately, this is a widespread issue. A 2010 study found that almost 2/3 of healthcare workers in operating rooms have seen rude behavior among staff, with almost 1/2 saying others have been rude to them.
What kind of impact does rudeness have on staff performance?
One study, published in Pediatrics, observed medical teams as they performed in a neonatal intensive care simulated life-or-death situation. The study found that a rude comment, made by an outside observer, decreased both the doctor’s and the nurse’s performance by more than 50%.
Rude comments can cause staff to experience the following effects, all of which can negatively impact patient care and health:
- Difficulties cooperating and communicating.
- Difficulties getting their jobs done effectively.
- Misdiagnosing the illness.
- Forgetting instructions.
- Not asking for help when needed.
- Doctors asking for the wrong medication.
- Nurses mixing the wrong medication.
- Difficulty properly ventilating a patient.
- Not resuscitating the patient well.
Why does rudeness cause performance issues?
Studies have found that rudeness spreads like a contagion, and negatively impacts a person’s working memory. This stress on the brain makes it hard “to learn, reason, comprehend, and recall information”. The authors of the study in the neonatal unit found that even mild rudeness negatively impacted the performance of the medical team.
Certainly, when doctors and nurses experience rude behavior, it can have serious consequences for patients.
What can you do about rudeness in medicine?
First of all, there are many opportunities for rudeness. Patients can be rude to medical staff. Medical staff can be rude to each other. And medical staff can be rude to patients. None of these scenarios are good for those involved. Certainly, rudeness in medical settings can be hard to avoid. However, you should try to limit its impact on you. Therefore, if your doctor behaves rudely, consider finding a new doctor. Because not only is it unpleasant, it’s also potentially dangerous.
Rudeness among medical staff is of particular concern in a surgical setting, where a team of doctors and nurses are literally responsible for your life. Since mistakes can lead to life threatening consequences, if possible, avoid a surgeon who is rude and find one who has a more pleasant demeanor.
For more information on the impact of rudeness, and how to improve communication, ready my posts:
- Are Patients Biased Against Doctors with Particular Characteristics?
- How Do You Treat Your Doctors?
- Why are Doctor-Patient Relationships Vital?
- 10 Tips to Communicate Better with Doctors.
- 10 Tips for a Better Medical Appointment.
- 6 Tips to Better Manage Your Care.
- Doctors’ Stress Impacts Patients.
- Doctor Burnout Can Impact Your Health.
NOTE: I updated this post on June 14, 2018.