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Unprofessional conduct shown in one in 20 medical staff

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25th Jun 2013
Byron Kaye   all articles by this author

UP TO one in 20 medical staff displays “persistent patterns of unprofessional conduct” which has a direct impact on patient safety, a US expert claims.

Dr Gerald Hickson, chair of the Boston-based National Patient Safety Foundation, gave the estimate ahead of a series of talks in Australia as a guest of indemnifier Avant.

He said that “while some degree of human error is unavoidable, 3–5% of medical staff demonstrate persistent patterns of unprofessional conduct, which has a direct impact on patient safety”.

He added that “this small subset of physicians and surgeons can be reliably identified and intervened upon with good success".

But he did not advocate a punitive environment, saying “the key to being able to identify, measure and address unprofessional behaviours is a supportive infrastructure that includes leadership’s commitment to professional accountability”.

Dr Hickson’s research found disruptive behaviour frequently went unaddressed. The behaviours included physical and verbal outbursts, “professional jousting”, inadequate documentation and failing to respond to calls and pages.

All those behaviours could interfere with a healthcare professional’s individual performance, team cohesion and system reliability, the indemnifier said.

Avant head of member risk management Adam Golabek said awareness of the likelihood of unprofessional conduct was the first step to improving patient safety.

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