Do “Rude” Surgeons See Worse Patient Outcomes?


We can just get this out of the way, right up front: No, not all surgeons are jerks. Or unprofessional. Or think that they are God. But the stereotype persists. Surgeons, whether it is earned or not, do not have the strongest reputation for being warm, friendly paragons of professionalism. And, when this is true, when they are actually that way, it may mean worse outcomes for their patients, or so says a new study published in JAMA Surgery.

The study posed the following question: Do patients of surgeons with a higher number of coworker reports about unprofessional behavior experience a higher rate of postoperative complications than patients whose surgeons have no such reports?

The answer? It seems so.

For the study, researchers examined data on nearly 13,700 surgical patients and 202 surgeons from the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program, and analyzed post-op reports to identify any complication during the 30-day postoperative period, as well as whether or not the surgeons’ colleagues reported four kinds of unprofessional behavior: concerns about poor or unsafe care, unclear or disrespectful communication, lack of integrity, and an absence of professional responsibility.

The researchers found that when surgeons had one or more reports of unprofessional behavior during the previous 36 months, their patients were 12% to 14% more likely to experience surgical or medical complications during or following surgery.

The study concludes that, “It would seem that organizations interested in ensuring optimal patient outcomes should focus on addressing surgeons whose behavior toward other medical professionals may increase their patients’ risk for adverse outcomes.”

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

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