A recent PSQH article listed a dozen persistent medication safety gaffes that need to be resolved. Not surprisingly, No. 8 was "disrespectful behavior: a history of tolerance in healthcare." Disrespectful behavior includes bullying, threats, aggressiveness and even more passive forms such as ignoring and exclusion.

These behaviors don't belong in any workplace, and certainly not in healthcare because of the risks created and the definite threat to patient safety. More than ever, teamwork and effective communication are needed in healthcare environments. Disrespect creates barriers to both of these.

First, it is a distraction. Disrespectful behavior interferes with decision-making and stifles communication — or the exchange of important information. Disrespect also makes it difficult to build strong collaborative teams who can manage their limited resources to deliver high-quality care.

If I'm the patient, I want my caregivers to ...

  • Freely communicate about my situation, background and their assessment and recommendations.
  • Feel safe in speaking up and advocating for me, the patient, and being assertive when they are concerned for my safety.
  • Work well as a team, supporting one another when necessary, so that the care I receive is both efficient and effective.
  • Share feedback with each other when challenges do arise or mistakes are made, to reduce the risk that these challenges or errors will be repeated.
  • Resolve conflict when it arise, or feel comfortable taking it to a higher level for assistance with finding a resolution.
  • Communicate effectively with me and my close family members so we know what we can do to help.
  • Rise to the daily demands of their job and help me through illness, recovery or as I near the end of my life.

If I'm the patient, I don't want my caregivers to ...

  • Allow fatigue, stress and frustration to cloud their ability to think clearly or to make decisions about my diagnosis or care.
  • Make a medication error because they were overwhelmed with responsibilities and no one, who could, offered to help.
  • Delay my care or have my hospital stay lengthened because of miscommunications, inefficiency or medical errors.
  • Allow the cost of my care to rise because of inefficient use of resources or mistakes.
  • Cause me harm because someone was afraid to speak up for me and raise a safety concern, or because conflict prevented the care I needed.
  • Infect the entire culture of an organization with their disrespectful behavior and ruin the workplace for those who one day may be called upon to care for my family, friends or self.

We, healthcare professionals, are patients, too. The culture we set in place may one day be the environment we find ourselves relegated to for care.