Incidents of verbal and physical patient abuse in health care settings continue to occur, with some making headline news. Nurses have a professional and ethical responsibility to advocate for their patients when incidents of abuse occur. Tolerating or ignoring inappropriate behaviors occurs for multiple reasons, including ignorance, fear of retaliation, the need for peer acceptance, and concerns for personal advancement. Nurses need to reflect on their biases before they can truly respect patients' autonomy. Through the examination of reported cases of patient abuse, the need for a change in hospital culture becomes evident. The primary steps in eliminating patient abuse are opening communication, providing education, establishing competency, eliminating tolerance of unacceptable behavior, and creating a code of mutual respect. A change in culture to one of mutual respect and dignity for staff members and patients will lead to the best outcomes for all involved.
Keywords: culture change; deviant behavior; disruptive behavior; patient advocacy; perioperative patient abuse.
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