Hospital Staff/Physician Conflict: The Benefits of Speaking Up

Posted on June 6, 2012 by VITAL WorkLife

While much of the conflict that organizations must deal with exists internally, sometimes the effects are farther reaching.

In one case, nurses on a specialty care floor took turns avoiding a prominent specialist from the top group in that specialty in a major metropolitan area. The doctor’s behaviors during rounds were not only bullying and personally offensive, but were interfering with patient care. When the nurses banded together and refused to work with that physician any more, the hospital threatened to suspend the doctor’s privileges.

As a result, the specialty group put the physician on a performance plan and referred him to PWS for counseling. It turned out that the doctor, in addition to being a perfectionistic workaholic, was having serious marital issues which were exacerbating—and exacerbated by—the core behavior. This situation might have gone unaddressed much longer had the nurses not taken action.

As a result of intensive therapy and coaching, the specialist became aware that what he perceived as necessary feedback was perceived by others as angry bullying that kept him from building effective team relationships. Hospital staff reported that he became dramatically more collegial, his dismissive behavior almost entirely disappeared, and he was able to recognize and make amends for those behaviors when they occurred.

In this case, the specialty group had held off acting because nobody internally was prepared to deal with this particular doctor, who was a major revenue-producer for the group. However, the impact of the behavior was not just on potential lost revenue—it was also affecting the reputation of the group, as a whole, across the metropolitan area. The overall cost of the conflict that this individual physician was causing went far beyond a single revenue stream.

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