News Roundup [abridged Versions Appear In The Paper Journal]

Doctors' bad behaviour makes nurses quit

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 22 June 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:1477
  1. Roger Dobson
  1. Abergavenny

    Bad behaviour by doctors has a major impact on nurses' job satisfaction, says new research.

    Disruptive behaviour by doctors and the institution's way of dealing with it are contributing factors in the morale of nurses and their decisions to leave their positions. It may also have an effect on patient outcomes and healthcare costs.

    According to the study, reported in the American Journal of Nursing (2002;102:26-34) one in three nurses know at least one nurse who resigned because of doctors' behaviour.

    The research, based on a survey of doctors, nurses, and healthcare executives, also found that 92% of the 1200 people who took part, had witnessed disruptive behaviour by doctors. The survey took place at member hospitals of the VHA, a national healthcare alliance that represents 26% of the community hospitals in the United States. Disruptive behaviour by doctors was defined as any inappropriate behaviour, confrontation, or conflict, including verbal abuse and physical and sexual harassment.

    “We can't afford to disrespect nurses. The problem of disruptive behaviour is drawing the attention of hospital executives because of the effect it's having on the nurse population,” said Dr Alan Rosenstein, medical director of VHA West Coast.

    “If physician behaviour is contributing to the nursing shortage, that's bad, because we know the nursing shortage is linked with poorer patient care.”

    Dr Diana Mason, editor in chief of the American Journal of Nursing, said the problem needs to be tackled: “Disruptive physician behaviour, with its negative consequences for both nurses and their patients, continues to be an ingrained problem and needs to be creatively and decisively addressed. It is not just a matter of nurses feeling good about where they work—research has shown that nurse-physician communication is one of the strongest predictors of patient outcomes,” she said.

    A spokesperson for the Royal College of Nursing said: “We find this research very interesting, but there is no supportive evidence to suggest there is the same problem in the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, the research suggests that with nurse retention or stress level problems there is a direct line between nurses and mangers and not physicians.”

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