Undoubtedly,people have high expectations towards health professionals that includesdoctors, nurses, pharmacists, consultants, lab assistants and other individualsworking in the healthcare sector. These people are expected to be emphatic, knowledgeable,informative, honest, compassionate, caring, ethical and the list goes. They arealways hoped to act in the best interest of patients, in a very respectful andcivil manner. They are expected to be equipped with sufficient medicalknowledge and skills and being up-to-date with recent medical breakthroughs.
Thesehigh expectations from the society become a concrete reason why healthprofessionals need to maintain good behaviours in their job. Defining goodbehaviours are indeed really broad, but there are professional and ethical guidelinesoutlined usually by the Medical Council or other healthcare authorities in acountry. For example in the UK, health professionals under the HealthProfessional Council have to obey to the Standards of Conduct, Performance andEthics (1). However, there are certain health professionals that adopt unacceptablebehaviours that can largely affects the quality of healthcare. These behavioursmay involve usage of inappropriate words or actions that may affect his or hercapability to cooperate with others, or interfering the quality of healthcaregiven to patients, or affecting the safety of patients (2). These disruptivebehaviours can give a negative impact towards the relationship with patientsand other colleagues in the healthcare team, and will give a bad impressiontowards the public. Patientshave an expectation that doctors should maintain a certain level of personalintegrity and have a good standard of behaviour within their personal life (3).They act as role models to the public.
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Usually, people tend to expect thathealth professionals should put a clear boundary between personal life and professionallife. Their personal life or their attitudes outside work have no concerntowards the patients or the public, as long as they can provide the bestquality of treatment and maintain good communication skills when dealing withpatients. But if the behaviours outside work or their personal life affecttheir ability to practice medicine in the aspect of professional judgement orconduct, it could affect the relationship with patients and other staffs andcan be perceived as unacceptable (3). Abuseof mind-altering substances that includes alcohol and drugs by physicians isone of the examples that I could find where bad behaviours outside work mayaffect physicians’ professionalism at work. This may give a bad impression towardspatients and may harm patients’ safety if the physician practise under theinfluence. In California, US, a young ER physician has shared his experience inan article in TIME, where he called a leading surgeon to do an emergencyappendectomy to a patient but the surgeon arrived drunk with no other surgeonsavailable in the hospital (4).
We can see such personal habits put a patients’life at risk and indeed this behaviour is indeed unethical and unprofessional. Inthe United States, the rates of drug addiction among physicians has risen to15% which is higher than that of the population as a whole which is from 8% to10% (5). This problem is indeed alarming, as these physicians have taken theoath to care about others. Drug or alcohol abuse records might give a badreputation towards the doctor and cause lack of confidence among patients toaccept their medical advices as their impression towards the doctor has beendemolished.
Such unacceptable behaviourshould be avoided. Apartfrom that, effective cooperation in health-care delivery is indeed crucial forpatient safety and to improve quality care towards patients. A team withdifferent specialties that includes specialists, general practitioners, nurses,and others could work together to develop care plans and procedures to be taken,identify diagnoses and generally provide high quality treatment for patients (6).However, mutual respect, good communication, openness in accepting opinions andhigh commitment are all essential elements in order to achieve effectiveteamwork. Acting disrespectfully and avoiding to accept others’ opinions andsuggestions can disrupt cooperation between health professionals.
According toa doctor-nurse behaviour survey conducted by American College of PhysicianExecutives in 2009, a participant wrote: “It’sthe everyday lack of respect and communication that most adversely affectspatient care and staff morale (7).” Another participant wrote about a surgeon who was frustrated by staffingissue in the Operation Theatre yelled publicly that ‘monkeys could betrained to do what scrub nurses do’ (7). I regard the surgeon’s action as reallydisrespectful and unprofessional as a colleague and could weaken thedoctor-nurse relationship in the healthcare team. The surgeon’s action canhumiliate the scrub nurse publicly thus giving a bad impression towards himselfas a senior doctor. Based on the Guide toProfessional Conduct and Ethics forRegistered Medical Practitioners 2016, one have a duty to behaverespectfully towards other colleagues in the workplace and should avoid anyform of bullying and undermining despite being in the position of trust andauthority (8). I believe that a healthprofessional should always act in a respectful manner towards his or hercolleague and do not belittle others in spite of the power or seniority that heor she has because everyone in the team has different capabilities and anymistakes done should be addressed in a professional way.