Bad manners: U.K. survey finds cardiologists, radiologists more likely to be 'rude' or 'dismissive'

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Just as you're taught as a child, it's important to mind your manners. A recent online survey of doctors in the United Kingdom, however, showed that some specialists there do a better job of being pleasant in their communication, at least in the eyes of the respondents. 

The survey found that 17 percent of U.K. docs felt cardiologists were more likely to be rude or dismissive compared with others specialties. Radiologists fared even worse, with 27 percent saying the imaging experts lagged behind in their manners.

Neurosurgeons (18 percent) and general or specialty surgeons (20 percent) were also seen as more likely than others to be rude or dismissive.

Victoria Bradley, a medical education fellow at King’s College Hospital in London, and colleagues published their results online in  Clinical Medicine on Dec. 1.

“We have shown that across multiple hospital trusts a subset of predictable specialties are more likely to be rude, dismissive or aggressive in their communication: radiology, general surgery, neurosurgery and cardiology,” they wrote. “This finding partly conforms to a survey of nurses and medical students in the USA which identified general surgeons, neurosurgeons and obstetrics and gynecology as the specialties most likely to be disruptive and unprofessional.”

They sent an email invitation to doctors at three large teaching hospitals (two in London and one outside London) between November 2013 and February 2015 and asked them to complete a multiple choice questionnaire with free text boxes. They asked them about the frequency of rude, dismissive and aggressive communication between doctors and the context and impact of the behavior. 

The researchers received 606 responses (a 15 percent response rate) and found that 31 percent of doctors said they were subjected to rude, dismissive and aggressive behavior multiple times per week or more.

They mentioned that previous research found 1 to 3 percent of doctors were bullied on a daily or weekly basis.

Further, 43 percent of junior doctors, 38 percent of registrars and 18 percent of consultants said they experienced rude, dismissive and aggressive behavior at least a few times per week. In addition, 40 percent of respondents said the behavior moderately or severely affected their working day.

Of the respondents, 16 percent said the rudeness, dismissive and aggressive behavior originates from within their own department and 49 percent said the behavior comes from interaction with other departments and specialties.

The respondents said cardiologists, radiologists, general surgeons and neurosurgeons were more likely to engage in rudeness, dismissive and aggressive behavior than other specialties.

However, 86 percent of respondents said they had never communicated in this way or only did so a few times per year.

The researchers cited a few limitations, including the survey’s low response rate and the small sample size in focus groups. They also mentioned that doctors affected by negative behavior might be more motivated to participate and that they had not evaluated the experiences of doctors at smaller district general hospitals.

“There may be a perception that rudeness is a mild word, for a mild problem; that as it is a part of everyday life and resilience to it should be a normal part of our reactions and behavior,” they wrote. “We have shown that it is a widespread problem with a large impact on individuals and healthcare organizations. Changing this behavior is likely to be challenging. The recognition that [rudeness, dismissive and aggressive] behavior is damaging and counterproductive is an essential initial message which needs dissemination.”