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How Your Health Care Team Gets Along May Lead to Medical Errors

How well does my health care team get along? A Delaware Online article presents information on how the interaction between your medical providers and staff may affect you and your loved ones.

The question is worth pondering, say experts in what is commonly called “disruptive behavior.” When doctors throw charts at nurses or nurses throw insults at trainees — it isn’t just a workplace problem. It’s a patient-safety issue. In 2008, the Indiana Supreme Court ruling in Raess v. Doescher upheld a $325,000 settlement for the perfusionist, who said he was traumatized by a surgeon coming at him in a rage.

In one survey of more than 4,500 health care workers, 77% reported disruptive behavior by doctors and 65% reported it among nurses. More than two-thirds said such behaviors led to medical errors; nearly one-third said they contributed to patient deaths.

The link between bullying and medical mistakes lies in human nature, says Marty Martin, a psychologist based at DePaul University in Chicago. “Say, for example, you are going to get a colonoscopy. You are now sedated, and you don’t know what’s going on. Now let’s say the gastroenterologist and the nurse get into a verbal conflict. One or both of them is likely to be distracted.” If you end up with a perforated colon, he says, it may be because of that distraction, rather than any lack of medical skill.

Patients who experience or witness boorish behavior have every right to speak up, Martin says, because the quality of their medical care may depend upon it.

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