Background: Surgeons are the physicians with the highest rates of documented disruptive behavior. We hypothesized that a unified conceptual model of disruptive surgeon behavior could be developed based on specific individual and system factors in the perioperative environment.
Study design: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 19 operating room staff of diverse occupations at a single institution. Interviews were analyzed using grounded theory methods.
Results: Participants described episodes of disruptive surgeon behavior, personality traits of perpetrators, environmental conditions of power, and situations when disruptive behavior was demonstrated. Verbal hostility and throwing or hitting objects were the most commonly described disruptive behaviors. Participants indicated that surgical training attracts and creates individuals with particular personality traits, including a sense of shame. Interviewees stated this behavior is tolerated because surgeons have unchecked power, have strong money-making capabilities for the institution, and tend to direct disruptive behavior toward the least powerful employees. The most frequent situational stressors were when something went wrong during an operation and working with unfamiliar team members. Each factor group (ie, situational stressors, cultural conditions, and personality factors) was viewed as being necessary, but none of them alone were sufficient to catalyze disruptive behavior events.
Conclusions: Disruptive physician behavior has strong implications for the work environment and patient safety. This model can be used by hospitals to better conceptualize conditions that facilitate disruptive surgeon behavior and to establish programs to mitigate conduct that threatens patient safety and employee satisfaction.
Copyright © 2014 American College of Surgeons. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.