According to a new article in Aeon magazine, disrespectful doctors create a “bullying culture” in hospitals. Doctors can mistreat nurses, nurses chide medical students, and so forth. Hospital bullying can filter down from the top, creating a culture that is difficult and discourages open sharing of information. Most common are not the loud outbursts, but rather the “microagressions” – public reprimands, sarcastic comments, and addressing colleagues by rank instead of by name.
These behaviors are not just psychologically damaging to hospital personnel – they can have negative impacts on patient outcomes. The culture stifles open discussion among attending physicians, medical students, and nurses, which can cause unnoticed problems to worsen. In order to improve outcomes, hospitals must foster open communication between staff of all levels. These cultures are permitted because of the old adage that discipline whips employees into shape. However, all current data points to the contrary, including a UK study last year in which over a quarter of doctors and a third of nurses reported that hospital bullying caused them to behave in a way that was bad for patient outcomes.