New Study: Rude Comments Affect Medical Performance

Everyone has a bad day at work sometimes. Traffic slows you down, copiers break, phones ring incessantly, and meetings don’t go as planned . . .  these things happen to everyone, but that doesn’t mean they’re not stressful. When you have a bad day, it’s easy to snap at a coworker, partner, or child. Afterwards, you might feel guilty, but in the long run, it was just a bad day — life goes on.

For nurses, doctors, surgeons, and other health care workers, though, even a single rude comment might have dramatic results. A new study published in Pediatrics shows how.

The study, fittingly, is called “The Impact of Rudeness on Medical Team Performance”. It examines how rude comments influence important factors like cognition, communication, and productivity. To conduct the experiment, two teams were told a medical expert would observe their work via webcam. For one team, the prerecorded “observer” commented on their work, but did not make any rude comments. The other team, however, heard rude remarks from the “observer,” including insults to their work.

Attitude Matters!

The team that experienced the rude comments had trouble doing their job effectively. According to the study, they misdiagnosed the illness, didn’t treat the patient to the best of their ability, and used the wrong medications. There was a 52% difference in how well the two teams treated diagnosed the disease. Additionally, there was a 43% difference in how well they treated it. Overall, the team that didn’t hear rude remarks performed much more effectively.

It’s likely that similar results would carry over to other professions. For example, a rude customer might cause a waiter to mess up an order, or a rude phone call could cause throw off a flustered receptionist. However, in the medical sphere, the stakes are incredibly high. When patients come into hospitals or medical offices, they expect — and deserve — the best care. Anything below this expected standard of care is potentially medical malpractice. If a health care worker prescribes the wrong dosage of a medication, misdiagnoses an illness, or make a mistake during surgery, it can have fatal consequences.

The idea that a single comment could throw off an entire medical procedure is scary. This new study sheds important light on the issue, and although it does give patients another little thing to worry about, it’s also a good reminder to always be polite and patient with everyone!


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.


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