Were you a fan of the TV show “House”?
If so, you may have come to accept Dr. House’s rude, uncivil nature because he was such an awesome physician. After all, he pulled off a medical miracle every Monday night!
When it comes to your own medical care, you might tell yourself that you’d rather have a really smart nurse with a “gruff” bedside manner than a less-than-average caregiver with a bright and cheery disposition. After all, what does it really matter if there is underlying conflict, gossiping or bullying going on if it doesn’t affect your care?
And therein lies the problem—a very big problem.
Disruptive and inappropriate behavior between healthcare co-workers does affect patient care. In fact, a brand new book called The Real Healthcare Reform written by two veteran nurses, Linda Leekley and Stacey Turnure, contends that an epidemic of incivility infects most healthcare workplaces. This situation has become so serious that the premier accrediting institution for healthcare organizations, The Joint Commission has spoken out about this issue.
In annual surveys, the public puts healthcare professionals on a pedestal by consistently giving them high marks for honesty and ethics. While nurses are often our neglected “heros” of health care services and are the most compassionate and caring individuals by nature, this does not mean that there may not be trouble brewing under the surface for a variety of reasons.
So, how is it possible that all these honest and ethical people have become so entrenched in a culture of incivility?
Here’s the scoop.
The medical field is fast-paced, competitive and constantly evolving. And, because human lives are at stake, people in healthcare shoulder a heavy responsibility. When you blend all these factors, you get people who tend to feel powerless, stressed out, depressed or even angry. That can lead to a toxic work environment—and “polluted” patient care.
Consider these all-too-common scenarios:
Two nurses, Beth and Karen, have a longstanding feud at work. When one of Beth’s patients asks Karen to tell her nurse she is in pain, Karen conveniently “forgets” to tell Beth. Who suffers because the nurses don’t get along? The patient.
Tom, a nurse, yells at the nursing assistant, claiming she is slow and lazy. Afterwards, the nursing assistant is so flustered that she misreads her patient’s vital signs. The patient’s spike in blood pressure gets missed. Later that day, the patient has a stroke.
When Anne, a nurse, suggests to Dr. Wilson that his patient may be suffering from undiagnosed diabetes, the doctor belittles her and disregards her opinion—because she is “only” a nurse. The patient does have diabetes and it continues to go undiagnosed.
So what can you do about this pervasive problem? Here are a couple of suggestions:
1. Call for a Truce! Don’t tolerate incivility when you witness it. If you notice two healthcare professionals being rude to each other, speak up! Tell them that you know incivility affects patient care and you refuse to be the innocent victim of their bickering.
2. Reward Respect. When people are taxed both emotionally and physically, finding the energy for civility can be tough. So, when you see respectful behavior among healthcare co-workers, offer a bit of praise. Let them know you feel safer because your caregivers make the effort to work well together.
3. Nurture the Nurses. Healthcare professionals are so busy taking care of everybody else, they frequently forget about themselves. I have seen this played out with nurses more than any other healing profession.
If you are in the healthcare field or know of someone who is gently remind them that erratic work shifts and increasing responsibilities can play havoc with circadian rhythms affecting weight, blood sugar and mood. In addition to exercise and stress management (especially mind-body activities like yoga, massage, and meditation), eating protein and fat at every meal and snacks will keep nerves stable.
Supplement wise: All caregivers should consider the adrenals. Adrenal fatigue is very common in the healthcare workplace. Caregivers often prop themselves up with coffee and colas to keep going. Consequently, their exhaustion results in irritability, anxiety, and lack of patience.
To further augment tired adrenals, a high dose, yeast free B vitamin supplement is essential. Consider a formula which features at least 50 mg of each of the Bs including B-6, the precursor to serotonin and norepinephrine, the brain chemicals connected to feelings of well being. For all of my nurses, I also suggest Ultra H-3 to help normalize acetyl choline synethesis—another brain chemical which elevates mood, calms the nerves, helps memory retention, and produces sounder sleep—all of which enhance the ability to cope better with stressful situations of all kinds.
4. Spread the Word! If you work in healthcare of you know someone who does, visit www.embracingcivility.com or check out The Real Healthcare Reform book for targeted, action-oriented information and specific exercises to help “detox” the work environment.
Is this truly something that has gone under the radar or is it something you are aware of and have experienced?