ACPE: Disruptive Behavior Among Health Care Employees Must Be Curbed

Doctors yelling at nurses. Nurses berating underlings. And a system woefully unprepared to deal with the damage.

Despite the best efforts of many, disruptive behavior is still a common and pervasive problem throughout the health care industry. To counteract this, the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) released a new book to help physician leaders identify and eliminate disruptive behavior.

Called Taming Disruptive Behavior, the 126-page book is authored by expert therapists Phillip Hemphill, PhD, and William “Marty” Martin, PsyD. While bullying or harassment can happen in any workplace, it can have a dramatic impact on patient care in the health care industry. Taming Disruptive Behavior will help physician leaders recognize inappropriate behavior and find practical solutions for dealing with it.

Martin, a longtime ACPE faculty member, said bad behavior may be on the rise due to the stress associated with health care reform. As reimbursement declines and uncertainty increases, some health care workers lash out at the people around them.

“It’s not uncommon for people to react to that stress in a very hostile, aggressive fashion,” Martin said. “You can’t get mad at health reform. You can’t get mad at a 2,000-page document. So a lack of coping skills is causing some people to engage in disruption.”

Among the topics addressed:

  • The impact, costs and risks of disruptive behavior
  • Addressing disruptive behavior from an organizational perspective
  • What are the special considerations when working with physicians?
  • How to deal with nurses and other members of the care team
  • Dealing with sexual misconduct at work
  • What is the role of human resources, the legal department, quality management and medical staff?

Peter Angood, MD, ACPE’s CEO, said the new book shines much-needed light on this problem. While a relatively small number of individuals are at the center of this dysfunction, their actions create a ripple effect that touches everyone throughout the continuum of care, including physicians, nurses, patients and families.

“Eliminating disruptive behavior is essential to creating a culture of safety,” Angood said. “This book is another important step forward in helping physician leaders find solutions for reporting, addressing and ultimately eradicating bad behavior from our profession.”

Taming Disruptive Behavior can be ordered through ACPE’s website,