Rudeness in Hospitals | Doctor-Patient Interactions


It’s no mystery that hospitals try to strike the balance between efficiency, professionalism, and comfortability for patients — still, rudeness in hospitals can come from either side of an interaction. What’s more is that this might actually decrease overall productivity when it comes to patient outcomes.

Working as a locum in a new environment can be a great chance for a clean slate to build positive relationships with your team. That said, you may not always walk into an ideal situation in terms of cooperation and politeness. Even if you’re part of a dream team, patients still come in all shapes, sizes, and temperaments so you’ve got to be ready for rudeness whenever it rears its ugly head.

Avoiding Rudeness in Hospitals

While you may consider yourself immune to the situation when it comes to your own tolerance of unruly behavior, that doesn’t mean your team is as thick-skinned is needed. Studies have shown that some of the most crucial elements of the job — teamwork, communication, diagnostic and technical skills — may actually suffer when confronted with rudeness.

Of course the term “rudeness” is somewhat vague, but even so, you definitely know it when you see it. Whether it’s harsh comments, a complete lack of patience, or just sheer aggression and hostility, these things don’t make it any easier to work in a medical environment. Unfortunately, it’s not always common sense that you should treat those taking care of you with courtesy — insofar as it’s deserved.

Still, a widely cited British study describes how much of the rudeness faced by hospital staff comes from coworkers and colleagues rather than the patients themselves. Apparently, 31 % of doctors experience internal rudeness several times a week in the form of dismissive or aggressive communication. Not to point fingers, but the study also found more frequent rudeness from certain specialties: radiology, general surgery, neurosurgery, and cardiology.

Prescribing Kindness

After a stressful day or series of procedures, it’s hard not to have a short fuse when it comes to confrontations or other challenges. Yet, it’s a difficult diagnosis to find out what’s truly causing a decline in performance due to rudeness in hospitals. Additionally, the researchers pointed to the correlation between the mistreatment of medical students, which may actually represent more serious underlying problems like burnout, depression, or even substance abuse. This is to say that effectively, “rudeness” isn’t always something that’s easy to classify and hence it’s difficult to put an end to.

In the British study, researchers tried to identify some of the causes of rudeness in hospitals, narrowing it down to 5 themes:

  • Workload
  • Lack of Support
  • Patient Safety
  • Hierarchy
  • Culture

At the surface level, the stress arising within these themes tended to produce rude interactions during patient and physician interactions. The report goes into great detail as to how these things affect the daily flow of a medical setting, and yet we can settle with this takeaway, if not just as a means of starting the conversation:

Rudeness in hospitals begets rudeness. Although it’s hard to react sweetly to a sour situation, there are few better means of conflict resolution than promoting calm, objective communication. And sure, there are times when your assertive nature can prevail, however, it’s about reading the room or even the hospital as a whole.

Author: Connor Smith

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