Physicians who intimidate or berate caregivers are contributing to medication errors by reducing the likelihood that nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals will act on concerns about orders, according to a survey of 2,099 healthcare professionals by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. At least once in the past year, 40% of respondents with concerns about the safety of a medication assumed the prescription was correct rather than bring the matter up with a physician or other prescribing clinician with a reputation for reacting with intimidation. And when they did express concerns, 49% said they felt pressured to dispense or administer the medication regardless. Often, the memory of past confrontations was threat enough -- nearly half of respondents said past experiences with intimidation have altered how they handle questions or clarifications. The consequences: 7% of respondents said they were involved in a medication error "in which intimidation clearly played a role," according to the institute.
Physicians aren't the only people who intimidate healthcare professionals charged with carrying out medication orders, but doctors use condescending language or are impatient with questions twice as often, according to the survey. For example, 69% of respondents said physicians told them at least once in the past year, "Just give what I ordered." Only 34% had a similar encounter with other practitioners. About 48% reported receiving strong verbal abuse, and 43% said they discerned threatening body language at least once in the past year. Read the survey results . -- by John Morrissey