Do surly physicians cause more medical errors?

July 1, 2004



Physicians had better watch their attitudes when nurses or pharmacists question or express concern about a prescribed medication. Based on a survey of 2,099 health-care practitioners, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices found that physician intimidation and condescension contributes to medical errors by preventing those who carry out orders from obtaining clarification about the appropriateness of a drug.

According to Modern Healthcare (4/5/04), the survey, conducted in November 2003, found that 40% of respondents chose to believe that a prescription was correct rather than question an intimidating physician or other prescriber. Moreover, 49% said that when they did voice their concerns, they still felt compelled to administer the medication. Of all the respondents, 7% said they were involved in a medication error, in which intimidation by a prescriber played a role.

The survey also found that more than 20% of responding nurses and pharmacists experienced at least 10 run-ins with a condescending or impatient prescriber in the past year. Nearly half of all respondents said these past experiences affected how they handled questions or clarifications.