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Dealing With Bad Behavior


What do you do when a partner physician engages in some seriously bad behavior, on the order of yelling, cursing, or berating staff? Does your practice know how to deal with it?

This kind of disruptive behavior is far more common – and in some cases extreme – that you might think. A recent ACEP survey found some 97 percent of respondents witnessed this behavior between doctors and nurses, and both parties were guilty.

So perhaps it’s time to put a plan in place for recognizing and handling these disruptions. Last year, the Joint Commission introduced standards requiring accredited healthcare organizations to create a code of conduct defining acceptable and unacceptable behavior and a formal process for managing the bad behavior. Those requirements took effect in January 2009.

What about your practice? I spoke today with folks from Physician Wellness Services, which helps physicians and healthcare organizations manage stress and behavioral issues. They suggested that practices consider putting in place a similar policy.

PWS’ medical director Dr. Alan Rosentein said it should be a part of the HR policy, outlining the standard behavior expectation of the office. It’s a business after all, and treating coworkers poorly can lead to costly staff turnover, decreased productivity and job satisfaction, and even compromised patient safety, he said.

A policy also gives your practice some guidance on what to do when a physician acts out. It helps it not be a personal issue, said Lori Brostrom, PWS’ director of marketing. “If you don’t have a standard set of guidelines in place, it devolves into something personal,” she said. It also sets a tone for staff and new recruits, stating that this is not an office that will tolerate such behavior.

It seems like this kind of bad behavior has been accepted for so long, and now providers are beginning to see the implications for the business and patient care.


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