How Incivility at Hospitals Can Put Your Health at Risk

When you or someone you love is sick or injured, it’s a natural stress point. Stress leads to frazzled nerves, impatience, and unfortunately, sometimes incivility. During hospital stays, we may feel the impulse to lash out at those assigned to our care. Sometimes, healthcare professionals even lash out at one another during times of high stress.

It’s natural—but it can also be dangerous. That impulse may actually put your health at risk.

A recent article in the Washington Post addresses a much larger, even provable problem: The fact that incivility can be contagious. When we are berated, we are more likely to berate others at worst, and more likely to shut down emotionally at best. The article goes on to discuss a hospital simulation staged by two university professors in which an actress scolded neonatal doctors and nurses prior to a procedure. The outcome: A 40-percent reduction in effectiveness of treatment. As the study showed, even a mild insertion of animosity yielded negative results.

To put it more succinctly: If you are rude to your attending physicians and nurses, you could be jeopardizing their efficiency in caring for you—and if your health is tentative already, you could be courting disaster. Healthcare professionals are often trained to deal with the frazzled nerves of patients and their families, but the fact is none of us is completely immune to the effects of uncivil or aggressive behavior. Your doctor may be negatively affected by your lost temper despite her best efforts to resist.

Reducing the Risk

The key to avoiding this snare is to de-escalate tensions when they arise, or better yet to take steps to avoid an escalation in the first place. Some ideas to help:

  • Practice mindfulness exercises to gain more emotional control. Headspace and Calm are great apps to try.
  • Take a moment before responding in anger. Even a brief pause before reacting to a stressful situation can help you retain civility. Even if your anger is warranted, spewing it onto your health provider can only make things worse.
  • Maintain open communication with health professionals. Much of our stress comes from the fear of the unknown. Knowledge is power, so ask questions calmly until you have a full understanding of your health situation and how the doctor intends to address it.

If you believe you have suffered needlessly due to inadequate health care performance, our Washington D.C. medical malpractice attorneys can help. Give us a call to find out more.