Bullying in Healthcare and Its Threat to Patient Safety

​Caring for Intoxicated Patients, Errors from Hospital and Health-System Outpatient Pharmacies, Retained Bioburden on Surgical Instruments, and more in the June 2017 Pennsylvania Patient Safety Advisory


Harrisburg, Pa., July 6, 2017 — Bullying or aggressive behaviors between healthcare providers can seriously impact safe patient care.

"Facility-reported events between healthcare providers in Pennsylvania included descriptions of verbal abuse, intimidating behaviors, and work interference," said Dr. Ellen S. Deutsch, medical director for the Authority.

In response to requests from Pennsylvania patient safety officers for resources to address workplace bullying, the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority analyzed such events reported through the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Reporting System (PA-PSRS). Authority staff also developed a card-sized de-escalation tool that healthcare staff can keep with their name badges.

Authority staff reviewed events reported from July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2016, that described behaviors synonymous with bullying and identified 44 event reports that met specific criteria for workplace bullying between healthcare staff. 

Workplace bullying can inhibit teamwork, block staff communication, and impede the implementation of new practices.

Of the 44 bullying events, most were categorized under event type other/miscellaneous (n = 25) followed by error related to a procedure, treatment, or test (n = 12). Of the events, the majority of descriptions involved verbal abuse (n = 34) and/or intimidating behaviors (n = 32). 

"Forty-four reported bullying events between healthcare staff indicates that the existing dialogue about workplace bullying should continue," said Deutsch. "There are applicable strategies that facility leadership can put in place to empower employees through education, accountability, and enforcement."

In the Authority's June 2017 Advisory article, "Bullying in Healthcare: A Disruptive Force Linked to Compromised Patient Safety," healthcare staff will find information, insight, and risk reduction strategies to help combat bullying in the workplace. The Authority's accompanying Patient Safety Topic on bullying includes the aforementioned tool, Tackle Bullying with D.E.S.C., as well as other educational resources for healthcare facilities.

Download the full article.

Also published in this Advisory:   

The Authority has recently refreshed its website. For more information about the Authority, patient safety topics, Advisory articles, and safety tips for patients, please visit patientsafety.pa.gov.

The Authority's mission is to improve the quality of healthcare in Pennsylvania by collecting and analyzing patient safety information, developing solutions to patient safety issues, and sharing this information through education and collaboration. Its vision is safe healthcare for all patients.

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