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1. Difficult DoctorsA Process for Responding Constructively When Doctors Behave Badly1,2A Presentation for Nursing Students
Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DFAPA
May 19, 2009
2. Why is this important? Doctors can be difficult.
When they are, they create real problems in the workplace.
Because of their status or power, bigwigs regularly indulge in destructive behavior with no significant adverse consequence.
Temper tantrums are overlooked.
Intimidation is accepted, even reinforced.
Verbal abuse is tolerated and tyrants are lionized.
Even physical abuse and destruction of property are more common than we would like to admit.
But tolerating and thereby encouraging such behavior exacts an awful price.
Disruptive behavior wounds others and leaves lasting organizational scars.
After mastering the information in this presentation, you will be able to
Define the scope of the difficult doctor problem,
Describe exactly how difficult doctors behave,
Explain how difficult doctors make you feel,
Describe how your feelings make you behave,
Detail some effective organizational strategies for dealing with difficult physician behavior,
Identify a process for dealing more effectively with difficult physician behavior,
Explain why this process will help, and
Explain how to it.
All kinds of bigwigs regularly misbehave, but we bystanders are not as powerless as we sometimes feel.1,2
3. What is the scope of this challenge? Preparing to Deal with Difficult Doctors
Preparing physician leaders
4. How exactly to difficult doctors behave? They are disrespectful.
They berate colleagues publicly.
They use abusive language.
They indulge in condescending behaviors.
They throw temper tantrums.
They intimidate and threaten.
They engage in sexual harassment.
They lie, cheat and steal.
They are insulting.
They are upsetting to patients.
They throw things.
They slam doors and hit walls.
They may even physically assault others.1,2
5. How do difficult physicians behaviors make us feel? Hopeless
6. How do our feelings make us behave? Withdraw
Talk behind others backs
Try harder to please
7. What are some organizational strategies for dealing with difficult doctors? Acknowledge the problem.
Make a commitment to manage the problem.
Clarify your behavioral expectations.
Require physicians to agree to behave.
Field the best possible executive team.
Recruit a strong physician executive.1,2
Initiate a culture change.
Delegate with care.
Investigate and document allegations promptly, dispassionately and thoroughly.
Insist on fairness. Confront physicians effectively.
Consider all options and choose the best one.
Propose a reasonable solution and force dissenters to appear unreasonable.
Inform medical staff leaders; do not consult or seek consent.
Follow up promptly with staff members.
Send resolution letters immediately.
Dismiss nuisance complaints quickly.
Give your stars the star treatment.
8. What is a typical difficult doctor scenario?
9. What mistakes have you seen people make in such circumstances? Getting into a yelling match on the spot
Failing to attempt to contain the outburst
Agreeing with the doctor that the outburst was justified
Failing to document the outburst objectively
Confronting without objective documentation
Confronting without prior senior management support. Failing to attach any unpleasant consequences
Responding while still emotionally aroused
Failing to accept the victims feelings
Failing to point out that imperfections do not justify such outbursts
Failing to confront disruptive behavioral patterns
Being drawn into distracting arguments and away from the disruptive behavior1,2
10. What process, if followed, will most likely produce the best outcome?1,2 Label difficult physicians as difficult.
Recognize that disruptive behavior is an organizational crisis that must be managed promptly.
Recognize and monitor your own emotional arousal.
Employ appropriate mental distractions.
Minimize the emotional contagion.
Begin the documentation immediately.
Hear people out.
Accept everyones feelings.
Do not permit feelings to contaminate the documentation.
Encourage a cooling-off period.
Set realistic expectations for the staff. Clarify your expectation that a follow-up discussion with the physician will occur.
Accept the physicians frustration but not her behavior.
Attempt to resolve incidents at the lowest possible organizational level.
Suggest an early apology for inappropriate behavior and language.
Follow the SOMC progressive corrective action model.
Prepare to confront.
Follow your script.
Follow through on your promises to elevate the issue to the appropriate level.
Reinforce more appropriate subsequent behavior.
11. What have we learned? More effective teamwork with physicians is essential to our organizational success.
Tolerating inappropriate behavior from physicians (or anyone else) will undermine our efforts.
Building effective relationships demands a considerable emotional investment.
We should focus on our ownnot othersattitudes and behaviors since we have less control over theirs.
Total success is not possible.1
Incremental success is easily achievable.
This is a process, not an occasion.
But executing these strategies will result in some wonderful occasions too.2