Respiratory Syncytial Virus, the shocking prevalence of physician mistreatment and discrimination by patients, family members, and visitors is a serious concern for the United States’ health-care system. This study found that physicians who face mistreatment and discrimination are more likely to experience burnout, and previous research has found that physician burnout contributes to physician turnover and poor patient outcomes.
“It’s a ripple effect,” explains Dyrbye. “Burnout can cause physicians to reduce clinical time, which costs the United States’ health-care system a lot of money and exacerbates workforce shortages, reducing access to care. Furthermore, burned-out physicians are more likely to have substance abuse problems and suicidal thoughts. It’s horrible that these things are happening, but it’s even worse that burnout has negative consequences for patients and society.”
The findings add to the growing body of evidence that a multifaceted approach to addressing the physician burnout crisis is required. Dyrbye believes that a portion of the response must take place at work.
“Some organisations are putting policies and procedures in place for patients who have a history of discriminating against physicians and other members of the health care team,” she says. “There are also opportunities for chief wellness officers to collaborate with chief diversity officers to promote an organisational culture of diversity, equity, and belonging.”
She claims that there are steps a clinician can take in the moment with a patient, a member of their family, or a visitor who makes an inappropriate comment. When a patient’s behaviour does not align with organisational values, these include intervening and saying something, addressing the behaviour with the patient or their family or visitor, setting expectations and boundaries, and, if necessary, reporting the behaviour to leaders so that steps can be taken to terminate health care relationships with patients.
“You can’t abandon patients, and you’ll tolerate more behaviour from patients who are delirious, demented, or incompetent,” Dyrbye says. “However, we can have higher expectations for the rest of the world.”