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Medical Malpractice Accidents More Likely to Happen When Doctors Engage in “Medical Road Rage”

The Joint Commission, a US hospital accreditation group, is trying to get healthcare facilities, including hospitals and nursing homes, to prevent angry outbursts by doctors. There is concern that swearing, throwing objects, and yelling can increase the chances that a medical mistake will occur.

Beginning January 1, 2009, the independent group is requiring health care facilities to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy toward this behavior. Codes of conduct to encourage staff members to report bad behavior will be included.

According to the Joint Commission’s Chief Patient Safety Officer Dr Peter Angood, many healthcare facilities are worried that if they upset the doctors, they will take their patients to other facilities.

A Boston Globe article published on Sunday discusses behavior referred to as “medical road rage.” In one incident at North Shore Medical Center in Salem, an orthopedic surgeon threw a pair of scissors that wouldn’t cut properly and almost hit a nurse. While many hospitals have tolerated medical road rage from leading surgeons who are significant moneymakers, the hospital disciplined the doctor and introduced a policy making it mandatory for doctors to treat coworkers with “civility and respect.”

At St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, one orthopedic surgeon yelled at colleagues for six years before an incident involving him throwing two 10-pound sandbags, one of which struck a nurse’s foot, lead to his suspension (after 9 complaints). The hospital now requires that a medical executive committee evaluate a case once a medical professional has been reported three times for “outburst” incidents.

Hospitals try to calm doctors’ outbursts, Boston.com, August 10, 2008
Group tries to quell doctors’ bad behavior, UPI.com,

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The Joint Commission

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