Rude Providers Jeopardize Patient Safety. So Stop It.

Jennifer Thew, RN, June 14, 2017

Clinical outcomes and teamwork suffer when healthcare providers exhibit rude or uncivil behavior. Vanderbilt University Medical Center has developed a process for resolving disruptive behavior among clinicians.

Rudeness by medical teams causes problems that go beyond hurt feelings, suggest two studies published in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers have found that rudeness can negatively affect:

  • Diagnostic and intervention parameters
  • Team processes such as workload sharing, helping, and communication
  • Diagnostic and procedural performance scores

Researchers say that rudeness alone explained nearly 12% of the variance in diagnostic and procedural performance.


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For good reason, The Joint Commission has called for hospitals and healthcare systems to prevent behaviors that undermine patient safety such as rudeness and its cousins: incivility, lateral violence, and bullying.  

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is tackling these issues through the Vanderbilt Center for Patient and Professional Advocacy.

Prevent Disruptive Behavior

Part of the center's work is to help address issues of professionalism for physicians and advanced practices nurses, says William O. Cooper, MD, MPH, director of the Vanderbilt Center for Patient and Professional Advocacy.

"We do this work for Vanderbilt nurses and physicians, but we also have several sites around the country where we support their work in terms of processing their data and providing analysis and training of their leaders on how to address professionals who are associated with more than their fair share of, as we occasionally call them 'disturbances in the force'," he says.

Jennifer Thew, RN

Jennifer Thew, RN is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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