Surgeons behaving badly raises risk of complications for patients

The way that a surgeon interacts with co-workers could influence outcomes for patients in Kentucky and around the country. A study published in JAMA Surgery looked at 202 surgeons who had reports of negative behavior filed against them by co-workers. The researchers then compared this data to patient outcomes and discovered a link between unprofessional behavior and an increased risk of post-surgical complications.

The medical records of 13,653 patients showed that 1,583 of them experienced a medical complication within 30 days of their surgeries. Patients operated on by surgeons with complaints on file against them had complications at a greater rate than patients cared for by surgeons with clean records. Surgeons who had between one and three complaints created an 18% higher risk of complications for patients. When surgeons had four or more complaints, their patients faced a 32% higher risk of surgical complications.

Complaints from co-workers ranged from concerns about a surgeon's attitude toward safety to disrespectful communication. Some complaints described surgeons failing to attend to their professional responsibilities. The authors of the study concluded that unprofessional behavior by surgeons weakened safety culture and reduced teamwork. Complications associated with poorly behaving surgeons took the form of surgical errors, infections, pneumonia, stroke, sepsis, urinary tract infections, and renal problems.

All health care professionals have a duty to maintain high standards of care. Mistakes or outright negligence could inflict harm on unsuspecting patients. A person injured by a physician's poor performance could consult with an attorney in order to learn how to seek compensation for their losses, either through negotiating a settlement with the at-fault party's insurer or through a lawsuit.

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