Patients lose when physician arrogance goes unchallenged

Being a doctor remains one of the most prestigious professions in America. In many cases, the prestige is justified because of the difficulty of the job and the skill and professionalism which many doctors display.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of doctors who behave in ways that are unprofessional and even childish. A recent article in Slate Magazine discussed a problem that leads to a terrible work environment for nurses and puts patient safety at risk. While it often goes unreported, there is seemingly an epidemic of doctors who berate nurses and other staff members and refuse to listen to any comments or questions they see as a challenge to their authority.

The statistics are depressing. In a survey of nurses nationally, a significant number admitted that they have been berated and publicly humiliated for honest mistakes, had objects thrown at them by doctors and have worked with doctors who were reluctant or unwilling to answer questions.

In many cases, nurses knew they couldn't complain to hospital administrators because doctors would be protected (as important sources of revenue for the hospital), and because they (the nurses) would likely be fired.

It is not difficult to see how this authoritarian culture could put patients directly at risk. Even the most knowledgeable medical professionals make mistakes, which is why all medical professionals in a hospital should be allowed and encouraged to speak up when they notice a problem. When nurses aren't allowed to address and correct the errors of doctors, it ultimately harms patients and puts the hospital at risk for medical malpractice lawsuits.

Hopefully, articles like this one will prompt a national conversation about the way that doctor behavior and misbehavior is negatively affecting patient care.

Source: Slate, "Doctors Throwing Fits," Alexandra Robbins, April 29, 2015

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