Bad Bedside Manner: The Disruptive Physician

“Disruptive physicians” are doctors whose behavior undermines their own professional integrity. Behavior may exhibit public yelling, slamming the phone, throwing charts, and engaging in confrontations in front of other staff or professionals. It creates a climate of tension and stress that is not conducive to a professional environment.

Dr. Schouten, director of the law and psychiatry service at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, presented data from his experience with 82 cases of physicians who had been referred for disruptive behavior. Overall, 69 doctors were referred by Physicians’ Health Services at their hospitals, seven by their practices or facilities, three by attorneys, two by residency programs, and one by the medical board. (1) Anger proved to be the most common reason for referrals.

Often, disruptive behavior of physicians impacts the work environment. Facilities become prone to receiving complaints by other professionals, patients, or families about their experience with the particular physician. As a result, risk management rises for that facility.

Why is this behavior tolerated? It is not ironic, but confronting an angry physician can lead to more anger. The process also initiates a chain of protocols. Simply, human nature is such that most people do not want to deal with conflict or change until it is a crisis. Unfortunately, patient care and professional relationships can be impacted during this delayed response.

Select providers understand this sensitive area. George Anderson, owner of the renowned Los Angeles-based Anderson & Anderson®, anger management services, knows how to respectfully handle the needs of these physicians. Anderson now has numerous agreements with organizations, hospitals, and health care systems to offer executive coaching in order to circumvent the challenges that administrators and risk management face when dealing with disruptive physicians.

Avoiding the issue does not make it go away. Seeking appropriate solutions can eliminate long-term costs financially and in regard to patient care.

(1)Treatment Program Targets ‘Disruptive Physicians’: Reasons for Program Referral Include Anger, Performance and Compliance Issues, Sexual Misconduct, and Theft by Heidi Splete.

Sonia Brill, LCSW, CAMF — SB Consulting
Executive Coaching for Physicians and Professionals
Anger Management Services

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