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Hospital bullying: how medical hierarchy can harm patients

In recent years, concerns about school bullying have become very prominent in American life.

Traditional forms of bullying remain a pressing concern. And there are now also many concerns about cyberbulling.

But it is not only in schools that bullying can have a negative effect. There is also a type of bullying that occurs in hospitals and can adversely affect patient care. In this post, then, we will discuss hospital bullying.

The concern about hospital bullying was articulated in a column in Aeon Magazine. According to this column, bullying is a systemic, organizational problem that is common in hospital settings.

Doctors apparently play a big part in this bullying. This may be because of the still-hierarchical nature of so much of medical practice.

In that hierarchy, doctors may criticize nurses for failing to multi-task more effectively. More senior doctors may mistreat medical residents and others farther down the organizational chain.

The issue with such bullying goes beyond its corrosive effect on the well-being of those bullied and the overall morale of hospital staff. In simple terms, hospital bullying can harm patients. The difficult environment it creates can cause doctor errors and other actions that harm patients.

To be sure, not all doctors engage in such bullying. Loud outbursts or attempts to shame others are not the norm. But there are many forms that aggression against other employees can take, including subtle ways like refusing to call them by name.

In some cases, a doctor who berates nurses and others too often may end up discouraging them from openly discussing needed patient care. Or bullying may result in the failure to report a medical error.

Source: FierceHealthcare, "Hospital bullies pose a danger to patient safety," Zack Budryk, Feb. 3, 2014

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