Is Disruptive Behavior Inherent to the Surgeon or the Environment? Analysis of 314 Events at a Single Academic Medical Center

Academic Article


  • Objective:In 2009, the Joint Commission mandated a process to manage disruptive behavior, as evidence suggests it undermines a culture of safety. This process often reviews only the reporter's side of the story as the truth. In this study, we compared both reporter account (RA) and involved party (IP) responses to determine if disruptive behavior was inherent to the surgeon or the hospital environment and its relationship to patient safety.Methods:From 1/1/2015 through 12/31/2017, we prospectively recorded the RA and the IP response. This resulted in 314 reports involving 204 IPs. Four reviewers scored issues, interactions, modifiable stressors, and patient safety. Logistic regression determined factors associated with patient harm. Significance defined as P < 0.05.Results:Surgical, medical, and other specialties were IPs 43%, 35%, and 22%, respectively; 73% had only one event. High-intensity environments (OR, ICU, etc.) made up 56% of the total. Perceived unprofessional or lack of communication was present in 70% and 44% of events. A significant direct relationship existed between the stress of the clinical situation and the egregiousness of the behavior (P < 0.0001). Logistic regression revealed that unclear hospital policies, the IP being a surgeon, and urgent competing responsibilities were associated with potential patient harm (P < 0.05).Conclusions:Unclear policies and urgent competing responsibilities in the surgical environment create stress, leading to conflict. Single events for the majority suggest the environment as the primary contributor. Tactics to improve stressful environments and clearly communicated policies may be more effective and sustainable than individually targeted interventions in enhancing patient safety.
  • Published In

  • Annals of Surgery  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Heslin MJ; Singletary BA; Benos KC; Lee LR; Fry C; Lindeman B
  • Start Page

  • 463
  • End Page

  • 472
  • Volume

  • 270
  • Issue

  • 3