Combating Bad Behavior
The Joint Commission has issues a statement that rude, hostile and obnoxious behavior in the workplace is not simply unpleasant and inappropriate, but can be considered a patient safety or quality of care issue as well.
Anyone who has been in healthcare for a while is aware of a physician, nurse or laboratorian who is known for flying off the handle frequently or using foul, abusive or threatening language on a frequent basis. Very often such legendary behavior has been tolerated with excuses, especially if there is a perceived imbalance of power, such as from a physician directed at a nurse or laboratorian; or from a lab supervisor to a subordinate.
Excuses I have heard frequently often go like this: "he is very rude but otherwise he is an excellent physician," or "she is a real patient advocate and is only concerned about her patient," or "he always cools down and apologizes anyway." The Joint Commission has taken a second look at such behavior and interpreted it as serious enough to issue a sentinel event alert. Sentinel events are those which are serious enough to have caused harm or potential harm to a patient.
Alerts are sent out when The Joint Commission regards a sentinel event as serious enough or frequent enough that organizations need to develop a plan of action to avoid or minimize such events. This particular sentinel event alert comes with 11 specific recommendations. Additionally, The Joint Commission is adding new standards requiring healthcare organizations, including hospitals and clinical laboratories, to develop and document conduct codes designed to define acceptable behavior, minimize abusive behavior and address it when it occurs. Expect to see these standards in place in January 2009.