The high cost of rudeness

Here’s my latest article on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:


The high cost of rudeness

A study about rudeness in the medical journal Pediatrics got me thinking about the possible effects of rudeness in long-term care.

In “The Impact of Rudeness on Medical Team Performance: A Randomized Trial,” teams were subjected to rude comments by a supposed visiting medical colleague. For example, he suggested that the team members in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) “wouldn’t last a week” in his country.

Compared to the control group, teams that had been exposed to the rude comments had lower diagnostic and procedural performance scores.

Naturally, I wondered how this research might translate to senior living.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who has observed rudeness occurring in eldercare settings, whether it’s an administrator being curt with staff, nasty remarks between staff members, a discourteous statement to or from a resident, or a sharp comment by a family member.

To complicate matters, LTC teams are often multi-cultural. What’s considered reasonable for one culture may be deemed rude by another culture.

In addition, a comment can be interpreted differently depending on the ages and genders of the people involved. If an older female staff member compliments a young woman on her outfit, it can come across differently than if an older male staff member similarly compliments his young female colleague.

Long-term care is also very hierarchical. Doctors often “get away with” rude comments to nurses, as do administrators with underlings.

The research, however, suggests that nobody is getting away with anything. Rude statements negatively affect team performance in the NICU and, I suspect, in teams everywhere.

The good news is that the study found two behaviors reduced the impact of rudeness: information sharing lessened the negative impact of rudeness on diagnostic scores and help-seeking reduced the adverse impact of rudeness on procedural performance scores.

Here are some ways to address rudeness in LTC:

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The high cost of rudeness


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