It shouldn’t matter, right? Kids deserve the best health care no matter what they look like, how sick they are…or whether their parents are lovely people or jerks. Thing is, parental politeness—or lack thereof—does influence how well medical staff do their jobs, according to new research.
The case for niceness:
Parents who are rude to medical staff in hospitals have “devastating effects on medical performance,” says Amir Erez, a University of Florida management professor.
He and colleague Trevor Foulk compared teams working in intensive care units in emergency situations. Some teams were exposed to a parent (played by an actress) scolding them; others weren’t. The teams that encountered the parent rudeness performed worse in all 11 of the study’s measures, Erez and Foulk reported in the journal Pediatrics, such as:
- diagnostic accuracy
- information sharing
- therapy planning
What’s more, the negative effects from one family lasted the entire day. It affected how well they performed while caring for not just the unpleasant parents’ infant but other children as well.
Why it matters:
The reason, according to Erez: When someone is rude to you, it disrupts your thinking. So even though doctors and nurses have the best of intentions in providing excellent care, their brains can’t just shrug off and “get over” the insults. They can’t help being affected.
It’s not a small thing either: Medical errors cause a quarter-million patient deaths in the U.S. each year, according to Johns Hopkins research. While things like lack of sleep account for some doctor mistakes, social interactions with colleagues, patients, and families also play a role. Previous research by Erez estimates that as many as 40 percent of medical errors stem from the aftereffects of rudeness!
So take a deep breath.
Erez says he gets that emotions run high when your kid is sick. It’s scary. It’s tense. And intense.
But everybody’s trying to do their best. Do your part by trying to stay nice.
Somebody’s life may depend on it—maybe your child’s.
Photo: Eva Blue/Flickr