ISMP Releases Recommendations on Reducing Disrespectul Behaviors Against Healthcare Providers

A healthcare setting where disrespectful behaviors are allowed to flourish can face an increased risk of medication errors and medical mistakes for patients, the ISMP warns.

A medical safety group has released a series of new recommendations that are designed to help prevent and avoid disrespectful behaviors in healthcare workplace settings, which have been an increasing problem during the pandemic.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices issued a press release on March 15, announcing steps that healthcare organizations can take to eliminate disrespectful behaviors, such as condescending or demeaning comments and insults, impatience with questions or interruptions and negative comments involving colleagues or shift leaders.

Beyond making the medical workplace unpleasant, these behaviors and can have a serious impact on medical staff and increase the risk of medication errors, reduced standards of care, and other medical mistakes, which can lead to adverse consequences for patients.

The new recommendations follow a survey published by the group earlier this month, which indicated nearly 80% of healthcare workers personally experienced disrespectful behaviors in the workplace.

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The ISMP recommendations include establishing a mixed-composition committee of various ranks and disciplines, to foster respectful behaviors, and organizations should prohibit retaliation for reporting disrespectful behaviors.

Organizations are being encouraged to regularly survey staff anonymously, to assess workplace culture and current behaviors, to see how they are impacting the employees, patients, and the organization. They should use the information from complaints and exit interviews to identify problems within workplace culture and address them directly.

The ISMP also recommends establishing a communication strategy for staff to convey information to colleagues, create an escalation policy to manage conflicts, and establish a code of conduct that highlights the organization’s intolerance of disrespectful behaviors.

“Creating a healthier workplace where disrespectful behaviors are discouraged requires organizations to act on many fronts,” ISMP President Rita K. Jew said in the press release. “Transformational culture change, modeling of good behaviors, educating staff, and including behavior in annual performance evaluations are all steps in the right direction.”

Other recommendations include providing annual mandatory awareness education, creating accountability by establishing a confidential reporting program for disrespectful behaviors, and investigating all reports of disrespectful behaviors as they are received and implement interventions.

The ISMP is also calling on healthcare organizations to make systemwide changes addressing problems that promote disrespectful behaviors like excessive workloads, power imbalances, communication breakdowns and environmental stressors and establish a support system for those experiencing or witnessing disrespectful behaviors.


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