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Being Rude to Your Doctor May Affect Your Child’s Treatment


While doctors should provide the same level of care to the infant and child patients that they treat regardless of parents’ behavior, a study conducted in Israel suggests that this isn’t always the case. In fact, even mild unpleasantness on a parent’s behalf can affect treatment, according to the study. The study, which used simulated crisis scenarios that are common to help doctors train, and used real parents and fake babies, found that even the smallest amounts of rudeness may have the ability to damage “collaborative mechanisms” that are essential to effective medical teams and doctors’ performances. The study can be read about in more detail in The New York Times.

The Study: How a Mother’s Rudeness Affected Care

The rude mother in the study – who was acting as she was told to by researchers – uttered the phrase loudly enough for a large amount of staff to hear: “I knew we should have gone to a better hospital where they don’t practice third world medicine.”

Besides the rude comment, the mother did no yelling, further insulting, or acted with any level of violence. However, the comment was enough; doctors’ and nurses and skills were affected.

How Did Doctors and Nurses Respond?

As reported by the study and the Times, the following aspects of nurses’ and doctors’ performance were impacted by the mother’s single rude comment:

  • Individual performance;
  • Teamwork;
  • Diagnostic skills;
  • Procedural skills; and
  • Team communication.

Deterioration of all areas was so great that the risk for medical errors increased when compared to situations in which a mother did not say anything rude, just expressed general concern about the health of her baby (these control situations were tested, too).

Not the First Study of Its Kind

The relationship between rudeness in a hospital, often between doctors, nurses, and staff, has been studied before, and the effects are much the same. Consider the 2015 study of how the rudeness of an American doctor affected the performance of an Israeli medical team: Even though the team knew that they were being assessed for performance, their execution of certain tasks deteriorated, including ventilating skills, resuscitation skills, and even the ability to give the right medication to the right baby.

In both of the Israeli studies, doctors’ performance was affected more by rudeness than it was by sleep deprivation, highlighting the power of ill-mannered behavior. As Dr. Riskin, the director the neonatal intensive care unit at Bnai Zion Medical Center said, “We are human beings; we are affected by rudeness.”

With that in mind, the study lends a jumping off point for doctors to familiarize themselves with the problem and seek remedy, as well as information for potential patients.

When You’re Under Stress

Going to the hospital for yourself of a loved one can be extremely stressful. Sometimes, as a result of that stress, you may be rude. While kindness should always be a priority, at the law offices of Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C., we believe that nothing should affect the level of care that you or your loved one receives. If your child has been affected by a birth injury, or if you are the victim of medical malpractice, do not hesitate to contact our law offices for a free consultation today.

Contact us for your consultation (215) 567-3500