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Analysis

Rude Surgeons Make Things Complicated for Their Patients

By John Commins  
   June 20, 2019

Patients of surgeons who were cited for unprofessional conduct had an 18% to 32% higher risk for complications.

Surgeons who are rude, disrespectful and unprofessional with coworkers are also more likely to have complications arise during and after operations, a new study shows.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center examined the outcomes data from the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program for two academic medical centers, of 202 surgeons who operated on 13,600 patients between 2012 and 2016.

The researchers compared the outcomes of surgeons who had been reported by coworkers for unprofessional behavior with surgeons with no such reports. 

Patients of surgeons who had one to three reports of unprofessional behavior had an 18% higher risk estimated for complications. Patients whose surgeons had four or more reports had a nearly 32% higher estimated risk compared to patients whose surgeons had no reports.

There was no difference in the percentage of patients who died, were readmitted within 30 days, or who needed additional surgery, according to the study, which was published in JAMA Surgery.

The unprofessional behaviors included shoddy operating room practices, disrespectful communications with coworkers, and failing to follow through on professional responsibilities, such as signing verbal orders, the study said.

The patients of disrespectful surgeons were also more likely to have complications such as wound infections, pneumonia, blood clots, renal failure, stroke and heart attack.

“It’s really about common sense,” study senior author Gerald Hickson, MD, said in comments accompanying the study. “Unprofessional behavior modeled by the team leads reduces the effectiveness of the team.”

“If someone is disrespectful to you, how willing are you to share information or ask for advice or help from that individual?” he said.

Women surgeons were much less likely to have unprofessional conduct reports leveled against them than were their male colleagues, the study found.

The good news, the researchers said, is that rude behavior can be corrected.

“Future work should assess whether improved interactions with patients, families and co-workers by surgeons who receive interventions for patterns of unprofessional behavior are also associated with improved surgical outcomes for their patients,” the study concluded.

“If someone is disrespectful to you, how willing are you to share information or ask for advice or help from that individual?”

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

The patients of rude surgeons were more likely to suffer wound infections, pneumonia, blood clots, renal failure, stroke and heart attack.

Women surgeons were much less likely to have unprofessional conduct reports leveled against them than were their male colleagues.


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