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May 20, 2022

Hostile Behavior Towards Physicians in the Healthcare Workplace Adversely Affects Physician Well-Being and Patient Care

According to a survey study conducted in October 2020 at Stanford and published May 6 on JAMA Network Open, more than 20 percent of physicians surveyed reported experiencing verbal abuse and other misconduct exhibited by patients, visitors and others in the previous year.

The study’s authors found that most physician mistreatment came from patients and visitors.  They further found, “Mistreatment was associated with higher levels of occupational distress, whereas the perception that protective workplace systems exist was associated with lower levels of occupational distress.” They recommended that healthcare organizations place a higher priority on actions to reduce workplace mistreatment.

In the past, The Joint Commission similarly has exhorted hospitals and other healthcare organizations to address improper behavior, because it adversely affects patient care.  In a 2018 Sentinel Event Alert revised in June 2021, The Joint Commission characterized verbal abuse as a form of healthcare workplace violence.  TJC also had addressed these issues earlier in TJC Sentinel Event Alerts 40 (2008) and 57 (2017) regarding behaviors that undermine a culture of safety and likewise updated them in 2021.

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