Surgeons’ Unprofessional Treatment of Colleagues Can Impact Patient Safety

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Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers discuss how a surgeon's poor treatment of colleagues can have a negatve impact on patient care.In the medical field, surgeons are known for being some of the most brilliant, talented, and technically gifted individuals. Unfortunately, they also have a reputation for being rude, condescending, and unprofessional towards fellow colleagues, including nurses, physicians, and other members of their team. While some surgeons claim that this type of behavior can be productive in certain situations, a new study published in JAMA Surgery found that when surgeons treat their colleagues in an unprofessional manner, it can result in increased post-surgical complications, which has the potential to compromise patient safety.

Researchers involved in the study collected data on close to 13,700 patients and 202 surgeons from the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program. They analyzed the post-operation reports to determine whether members of the medical team reported any of the following types of unprofessional behavior:

  • Unclear or disrespectful behavior
  • Poor or unsafe behavior
  • Lack of integrity
  • Failure to follow through on professional responsibilities

Study Results

One example of unprofessional behavior that the study authors discovered included a surgeon who reprimanded a nurse because she requested a safety-related break. Another example included a surgeon who yelled at a physician for administering a blood pressure medication, which made the physician less confident to speak up about patients’ medication needs. The researchers found the following results from the study:

  • Patients of surgeons who had one or more incidents of unprofessional behavior over the previous 36 months were up to 14 percent more likely to experience complications within 30 days following surgery.
  • The most common complications included infections, pneumonia, stroke, and kidney failure.
  • The study did not identify which behavior subcategories were associated with the most incidents of complications.

Additional Factors

According to a general surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, positive surgical outcomes are not based solely on a surgeon’s technical abilities. Treating fellow colleagues with the respect they deserve will make them more likely to speak up about safety issues. However, if those same nurses are constantly being yelled at, they may be less likely to speak up.

The study’s relatively small sample size, and the subjective nature of the coworkers’ reports did not diminish the importance of the study results, said one of the study’s authors. If there were more reports of unprofessional behavior, it is likely that there would be more complications that would impact patients. However, another important takeaway from the study is that this type of negative behavior is not the norm among all surgeons. In fact, the majority are respectful towards their colleagues and take excellent care of their patients.

Studies like this can be extremely beneficial. By raising awareness, and providing valuable feedback, surgeons may improve their behavior. According to other study authors, today’s surgeons are less likely to fit the negative stereotype that has existed for years. In addition, a growing number of medical schools are offering courses on kindness and empathy. Some judge students partly on personality assessments and whether they are perceived as being empathetic.

Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Justice for Victims of Medical Negligence

If your health was compromised as a result of your surgeon’s unprofessional behavior, you are urged to contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will seek the maximum financial compensation you deserve and ensure that your legal rights are always protected. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Towson, allowing us to represent medical malpractice victims in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.