Carol Brewer, a professor at the School of Nursing at University at Buffalo in New York, and colleagues surveyed 1,328 registered nurses on how often they were verbally abused by physicians and the nature of the abuse.
The study, published in Nursing Outlook, found nurses who experienced a high level of verbal abuse -- more than five times in the last three months -- or moderate abuse -- one to five times in the last three months -- had less favorable perceptions of their work environment, lower intent to stay in their job and lower commitment to their organizations.
Those who experienced the most frequent abuse also perceived poor collegial relations between registered nurses and physicians, poor work group cohesion and more work-family conflict. Higher levels of verbal abuse from physicians were also correlated with more verbal abuse among nurse colleagues, the study found.
"It also seems that verbal abuse is contagious. One potential explanation is that negative behavior exhibited by one member of a group spills over to other members of the group and hurts the group dynamic," Brewer said in a statement. "We also see that in a stressful environment, including one in which there is physician to RN abuse, there is more likely to be RN to RN abuse, as well."
Meanwhile, hospitals are losing tolerance for this type of bullying behavior because of guidance issued by The Joint Commission, which accredits and certifies more than 20,000 U.S. healthcare organizations.
The commission warned hospitals intimidating and disruptive behaviors can foster medical errors, contribute to poor patient satisfaction and adverse outcomes, increase the cost of care and force medical personal to seek new positions.
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