3 tips to defuse disruptive behavior in healthcare

With hospitals cracking down on disruptive workers, healthcare leaders must be armed with information on how to handle disruptive and inappropriate behaviors.

Consider the following tips to prevent unprofessional conduct from interfering with the safety and well-being of patients and staff.

1. Educate managers

A major step to thwarting behavioral issues is educating managers about the different types of unprofessional conduct and their cost, Jody Foster, head of the Professionalism Program at Penn Medicine, told [email protected]. Disruptive behavior includes everything from verbal or physical threats, intimidation of co-workers and condescending comments to egocentricity or obsessionality, Foster noted.

And managers must be aware that rude work behavior comes with a hefty price tag. A January study from Georgetown University researchers suggests workplace incivility hurts the bottom line by prompting reduced work effort and quality, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

"When they act out in inappropriate ways--by, for example, bullying employees who work under them, compulsively micro-managing, displaying narcissistic tendencies--it can be devastating to the entire workplace," Foster said.

2. Address workplace behavior at the front door

Efforts to create a good work environment must start during the interview process. Foster recommended seeing how potential members cooperate with each other before assembling a management team.

She also noted that it's vital to screen job applicants for potential behavioral issues. "Making a mistake in the initial hiring is especially damaging because once you allow someone in, it's not always easy to get him or her out," Foster warned.

To ensure early detection and resolution, hospitals should create a professionalism committee to intervene before behavior problems worsen. The committee doesn't just identify bad behavior but also offers treatment plans, she told [email protected].

3. Align type of conduct offender, retribution

Hospitals must identify the three major categories of medical professional conduct offenders and handle each differently, according to physician executive and Hospital Impact blogger Jonathan Burroughs.

Rare and episodic offenders represent about 98 percent of medical staff--physicians who have rare lapses of professionalism in highly stressful situations--while approximately 1.9 percent of medical staff have an established pattern of conduct violations.

And 0.1 percent of medical staff fall in to the egregious category, which consists of individuals who have committed activities such as aggravated assault or battery, sexual misconduct, intoxication while caring for sick patients, significant destruction to property or equipment, Burroughs noted.

"The key is to create a fair process that differentiates between the severity, frequency and intensity of the individual incident(s), and therefore treats professionals in a respectful and trusting manner," he wrote last week in a blog post.

For more:
- here's the [email protected] interview