Hostility from Patients Has Increased to the Point Some Medical Centers Are Establishing Patient Codes of Conduct

Specific behavior will not be tolerated, and services will not be conducted to a patient (or family members) that poses physical threats and violence on the staff. 

The pandemic has increased the stress levels of health professionals trying to deliver the best care to sick patients. However, tensions have risen to the point that doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers have been assaulted by patients either because it took too long to be treated in the emergency department, understaffed health teams, or overall tension from a long and exhausting pandemic. As a result, Mass General Brigham in Boston has decided to establish a patient code of conduct. The institution’s stance is that they have policies for their employees and clinicians to treat each other and every patient and visitor with courtesy and respect. This policy helps to define appropriate behaviors for patients and visitors. 

Specific behavior will not be tolerated, and services will not be conducted to a patient (or family members) that poses physical threats and violence on the staff. Carbajal (November 4, 2022) reports that “the policy makes clear that “words or actions that are disrespectful, racist, discriminatory, hostile or harassing” will not be tolerated.” 

The Mass General Brigham health system said examples of intolerable behavior include “offensive comments about a person’s race, accent, religion, gender, sexual orientation or other personal traits; refusing to see a clinician or other staff member based on personal traits; physical or verbal threats and assaults; sexual or vulgar words or actions; and disrupting another patient’s care or experience.” Mass General Brigham is a Boston-based non-profit hospital and physician network that includes Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), two of the nation’s most prestigious teaching institutions.  

Their stance will be “if we believe you have violated the code, you will be given a chance to explain your point of view,” Mass General Brigham’s code of conduct webpage says. However, they still want to ensure their employees treat patients and visitors respectfully. Boyle (August 18, 2022) reports that “the rate of injuries from violent attacks against medical professionals grew by 63% from 2011 to 2018.” In addition, the nursing Association says that workplace violence has more than doubled the percentage from a year earlier. The reasons for the aggression vary from patients’ anger and confusion about their medical conditions and care grief over the decline of hospitalized loved ones.

Porath (November 9, 2022) touches on incivility and how it has affected many fabrics of our society. Hostility from patients’ visitors and hostility towards patients and visitors reflect several compounding factors and pressures on people. Stress is the number one driver of incivility. In addition, the pandemic, the economy, war, divisive politics, the changing nature of work, and continued uncertainty are all taking a toll. The Narrative Matters!

References:

Boyle, P. (August 18, 2022).Threats against health care workers are rising. Here’s how hospitals are protecting their staff. Threats against health care workers are rising. Here’s how hospitals are protecting their staffs | AAMC

Carbajal, E. (November 4, 2022). Respect staff or seek care elsewhere: Mass General Brigham enacts patient code of conduct. Respect staff or seek care elsewhere: Mass General Brigham enacts patient code of conduct (beckershospitalreview.com)

Gooch, K. (November 14, 2022). It’s an age of incivility: How business leaders can help. It’s an age of incivility: How business leaders can help (beckershospitalreview.com)Porath, C. (November 9, 2022). Frontline Work When Everyone Is Angry. Frontline Work When Everyone Is Angry (hbr.org)

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