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Be Nice or Be Gone

May 9, 2017

“Be nice or be gone!” This is a phrase that could be used on a poster placed in the surgeon’s lounge or medical staff office, or simply and anonymously sent to that one physician on your staff who really “just doesn’t get it.” Prevention is the very best of all actions a medical staff can take.

With revolving reports in the public press about disruptive, rude, abusive or downright mean physicians and the reported lack of any investigation or action against them, it may be time for your medical executive committee (MEC) to pull out its medical staff policy on practitioner behavior or the code of conduct your staff adopted a few years ago and make sure that all staff members remember that the medical staff is a collection of professionals who constantly strive to be professional and treat all patients, visitors, hospital staff and other doctors with respect and dignity at all times. This is not a very high bar. It does not imply that they must like each other. It does not imply that they should allow potential quality issues to remain unresolved. But it does mean that they must refrain from any of the following:

  • yelling, biting, kicking or throwing things
  • locking nurses in housekeeping closets
  • placing a gun on the MEC table when called in to respond to quality concerns
  • threatening to fire staff (whom they do not employ)
  • maligning the reputation of the hospital or medical staff in public (without first bringing credible complaints to hospital leaders)
  • disrupting medical staff meetings by yelling loudly and continually when their positions are not accepted (or throwing chairs at the wall while walking out of a meeting)
  • slapping patients on the bottom while those patients are under anesthesia
  • making rude comments about anesthetized patients
  • threatening retaliation when reported for bad conduct
  • demeaning hospital staff by calling them stupid, dumb, incompetent or worse
  • repetitively (weekly) chastising board members publicly for doing their jobs, thus undermining the community’s confidence in the hospital.

Unfortunately, this list of actual events cannot be placed into every medical staff’s code of conduct. Perhaps a shorter, easier-to-understand code might work better. I prefer “Be nice or be gone!”—a phrase I found inscribed on a small metal tray in an antique store in New Orleans many years ago. Perhaps a few readers have such a piece hanging in in their offices at present.

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