Addressing Patient Bias Toward Health Care Workers: Recommendations for Medical Centers

Link to article at PubMed

Paul-Emile K, et al. Ann Intern Med 2020.

ABSTRACT

Some patients engage in behavior or use language that demeans clinicians on the basis of their social identity traits, such as race, ethnicity, sex, disability, gender presentation, and sexual orientation, and some patients even request reassignment of involved clinicians. Despite the importance and prevalence of this problem, many medical centers lack an organizational approach for addressing patient conduct. Policy development can be daunting because organizations may encounter various barriers, including reluctance of staff to have difficult conversations about race or other identity traits; uncertainty about what constitutes an appropriate response to the spectrum of demeaning behaviors and who should make this determination; what, if any, support should be offered to targeted clinicians; whether these incidents should be reported and to whom; and whether the medical center's response should differ depending on whether nurses, trainees, or other clinicians are involved. These determinations have important implications for patients' informed consent rights, clinicians' employment rights, and medical centers' obligations to protect patients' health while adhering to workplace antidiscrimination laws and institutional commitments to diversity, equality, and inclusion. This article addresses these considerations and offers guidance to organizations on devising effective policies that meet the needs of medical centers, patients, and health care workers across services and roles, including physicians, nurses, and trainees.

PMID:32658573 | DOI:10.7326/M20-0176

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