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Bullying in hospitals may pose safety risks for patients

South Carolina residents may be interested to hear about information that suggests that bullying between doctors and co-workers may pose safety risks for patients. In a survey of over 4,500 health care workers, 77 percent reported disruptive behaviors among doctors and 65 percent reported disruptive behaviors among nurses. Nearly one-third of those same workers said that such behaviors contributed to patient deaths, and more than two-thirds said that they led to medical errors.

In one case, a perfusionist claimed that a cardiac surgeon clenching his fists and yelling at him menacingly made him feel threatened and traumatized him. A perfusionist is the person who operates the heart/lung machine during an open-heart surgery, so having his or her focus is extremely important in an operation. The Indiana Supreme Court later upheld a $325,000 settlement for the traumatized perfusionist. The tension between doctors and employees can potentially lead to more medical errors, which can, consequently, lead to more medical malpractice lawsuits.

Although bullying is part of every workplace, experts say that it is especially concerning in hospitals and other health care environments where patients' safety is at risk. They believe that if bullying contributes to more doctor mistakes, then measures should be taken to prevent it. To lead as an example, Vanderbilt University Medical Center created a "distressed physicians" program that aims to help doctors correct their disruptive behaviors.

People who have conditions that are caused by or made worse by doctors' errors might be eligible to file a medical malpractice lawsuit to gain compensation for their injuries. Medical malpractice lawyers may help those filing medical malpractice claims gather the evidence that they need to prove that their situations were caused by healthcare negligence as well as help them present those claims.

Source: USA Today, "When doctors are bullies, patient safety may suffer," Kim painter, April 20, 2013

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