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Stamping Out Rudeness in the Name of Patient Safety

By Jennifer Thew RN  
   March 14, 2017

When healthcare teams are exposed to rudeness, clinical outcomes and teamwork suffer. Vanderbilt University Medical Center has developed a process for resolving disruptive behavior among clinicians.

Rudeness has become the attitude du jour.

From the highest branches of our government to our friends' Facebook comments, "I respectfully disagree," has been replaced with, "You're an idiot." Or worse.

Some say it's refreshing to see people casting off superficial niceties and, "telling it like it is." Those who express dismay over the loss of social decorum get labeled "snowflakes," meaning they are thin-skinned, easily offended, and can't handle the truth.

But rudeness causes problems that go beyond hurt feelings, suggests a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers found that when NICU teams were exposed to rude comments from a patient's mother during a simulation training exercise, diagnostic and intervention parameters were negatively affected as were team processes such as workload sharing, helping, and communication.

A previous study published in Pediatrics in 2015, found that when NICU teams were exposed to rudeness by an expert observing them during a training simulation, they had lower diagnostic and procedural performance scores than the control groups that were not exposed to rudeness.

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

For good reason, The Joint Commission calls rudeness and its cousins, incivility, lateral violence, and bullying behaviors that undermine patient safety. TJC has called for hospitals and healthcare systems to prevent them from occurring.

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

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

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