A recent survey of physician-executives reveals ongoing problems with physicians who yell at nurses, refuse to carry out tasks, and show severe disrespect for others. In the survey, conducted by the American College of Physician Executives, about 36% of the 1,627 physician-executives who responded report having problems with physician behavior at least monthly.
About 57% of respondents said that problems most often involve conflict between a physician and nurses or physician assistants. About 70% of respondents said that problems with physicians nearly always involve the same physicians. Typical problem behaviors, listed from highest to lowest response rate, involve disrespect, refusal to carry out duties, yelling, and insults.
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Researchers also found that physicians who are punished for their behavior are generally treated more leniently than other staff members because of their professional stature. One respondent wrote, "We have a horrible track record in our own profession of even recognizing physicians with difficult personalities, much less dealing effectively with them." About 60% of respondents said that attempts to correct physician behavior are successful only half the time or less.
Researchers recommend coaching physicians on appropriate behavior, mediating disputes between physicians and others, firmly disciplining offenders, and referring problem physicians for counseling.