Joint Commission issues rules designed to stop bad behavior by doctors

The Joint Commission has issued a safety alert announcing new requirements for preventing intimidating behavior by doctors. In its statement, the Joint Commission noted that physician threats, outbursts and the use of condescending language, among other behaviors, can make nurses afraid to challenge doctors when they're concerned about potential problems. This can lead to increased medical errors, the group said. (Readers of this publication have all heard tales of, for example, wrong-side or wrong-organ surgery that went ahead because Dr. X wouldn't listen to nurses.)

Nurses who feel bullied aren't just afraid to challenge doctors they feel are making mistakes. They may even be afraid to call them with routine questions, which can lead to patient care problems, researchers have noted. Worse, nurses may make mistakes themselves, due to stress, after having a particularly stressful encounter with a bullying doctor.

However, the Joint Commission hopes to reduce these incidents dramatically. By next year, hospitals will be required to have codes of conduct and processes in place for managing inappropriate behavior by medical staff, including a policy specifically defining acceptable and unacceptable behavior. If they don't, the penalties will be stiff. Hospitals without appropriate anti-bullying systems in place could lose their all-important Joint Commission accreditation.

To learn more about the Joint Commission's ruling:
- read this Associated Press piece
- read the Joint Commission statement