I’m sure many of us have come across patients who are just downright rude towards healthcare professionals. Many of us internalize the rudeness and try to treat the patient. A recent study suggests that rude patients may actually be detrimental to the team’s current and future performance.
According to the authors of the study, 40% of the variation in doctor performance may potentially be due to interactions with patients like these (for context, the authors claim that 10-20% of the variation in performance may be attributed to lack of sleep). This study looked at 39 NICU teams (two doctors and two nurses) and simulated five emergency-type events (respiratory distress, shock, etc). An actress who was playing the baby’s mother would scold certain teams and the control was neutral commentary. The results found that the teams that experienced rudeness had adverse consequences for every measure including diagnostic accuracy, information sharing, therapy plan, and communication. Even more terrifying was the fact that this carried on for the rest of the scenarios.
The study then took this a step further. The authors provided some cognitive behavioral modification to some teams to prime them towards the rudeness. In essence, this pre-event task would alert them to ways to combat aggression and anger. Interestingly enough, the groups that received this cognitive modification performed just as well as the control group; there was no statistical difference between the control group and the primed group.
I found this study to be a fascinating reflection of human behavior. Don’t be rude to your doctors for your own sake and for the sake of others!!