Bullying Among Medical Providers May Harm Patients

Doctors have a reputation for treating their subordinates harshly, and recent research shows that the damage caused by hostility among health care providers may extend further than the egos of those who are targeted for bullying.

In a survey of medical professionals conducted in the U.K. by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, respondents said they often experienced bullying at work. Many – one in four doctors and one in three nurses – said the problem was so severe that it had led to them doing things that negatively affected patient care.

“Tough love” among doctors may be counterproductive

Bullying and verbal abuse is viewed by some as a normal part of the process of becoming a doctor and is sometimes seen as a way to “toughen up” nurses and medical residents to prepare them for the harsh realities of the medical field. Unfortunately, however, this approach can do more harm than good when it results in diminished patient care.

In order to provide patients with the best possible care, there must be open communication among medical providers at all levels. Unfortunately, in a culture where doctors and nurses are routinely belittled or harassed by their superiors, the flow of information can be interrupted. When providers fail to communicate about their patients, important details can be overlooked and mistakes are more likely to occur.

Miscommunication leads to serious complications

Because the stakes are often extremely high in the medical setting, a single lapse in communication between providers has the potential for very serious consequences. For example, when doctors and nurses fail to share their observations with one another due to intimidation and bullying, diagnostic errors or delayed diagnosis may result. Even if the mistake or oversight is later corrected, by that time the condition may have had time to worsen, damaging the patient’s chance of an optimal outcome.

Errors during surgery are another serious risk that can materialize as a result of breakdowns in communication between medical providers. These and many other surgical errors occur with alarming frequency at hospitals in the United States, often due to communication errors between providers:

  • Perforation of arteries or bowels.
  • Anesthesia errors.
  • Operating on the wrong side of the body.
  • Leaving foreign objects inside the body.
  • Operating on the wrong organ.

If you or a loved one has been harmed as a result of a breakdown in communication between medical care providers, you may wish to discuss your situation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. A lawyer with a background in medical negligence cases can help you evaluate your options, and can work hard on your behalf to pursue maximum compensation for your claim should you decide to move forward with your case.