Disrespect still a significant problem in healthcare work settings

Disrespect and rudeness from coworkers and superiors remains a serious problem for healthcare workers in spite of concerted efforts by the healthcare industry to curb and eliminate the behavior.

A thought-provoking essay by healthcare attorney Carolyn Buppert and published by Medscape looked at previous surveys that show an increase in behavior problems in the healthcare workplace, including reports of colleagues making degrading comments, insults, yelling and even throwing objects at coworkers. 

Nurses report that they have not only been on the receiving end of disrespectful behavior from physicians, but also from other nurses. Caught between the expectations of physicians, administrators, patients and their families, nurses on the whole report high levels of workplace stress and an overall sense of being unsupported by their workplaces.

When healthcare workers are afraid to go to superiors with problems or feel as if they are unable to question medical orders, patients can come to real harm, Buppert wrote.

In order to fight workplace disrespect, Buppert said healthcare institutions must find where frustrations exist in the workplace and that provoke confrontations among doctors, nurses and healthcare staff. Organizations must put systems in place that empower workers to speak out about abusive practices, she wrote. They must also ensure that they enforce standards of behavior uniformly across all departments and pay levels.

Although some national organizations and medical centers have worked on this problem for years, Buppert said survey data shows there is no change in disrespectful behavior from a decade ago.

"Rudeness should never be the reason behind a bad outcome for a patient and should never be the reason that a clinician leaves a job," she wrote. "The responsibility falls on everyone--those who dish it out, those who take it, and those who oversee the dishers and the takers--to keep disrespect out of healthcare."

To learn more:
- read the essay here