About the Discussion

Interns’ Experiences of Disruptive and Abusive Behavior in Academic Medical Centers.

Background: The first year of graduate medical education is an important period in the professional development of physicians. Disruptive behavior interferes with safe and effective clinical practice.

Objective: To determine the frequency and nature of disruptive behavior perceived by interns and attending physicians in a teaching hospital environment.

Method:  All 516 interns at Partners HealthCare (Boston, MA) during the 2010 and 2011 academic years were eligible to complete an anonymous questionnaire. A convenience nonrandom sample of 40 attending physicians also participated.

Results: A total of 394 of 516 eligible interns (76.4%) participated. Attendings and interns each reported that their team members generally behaved professionally (87.5% versus 80.4%, respectively). A significantly greater proportion of attendings than interns felt respected at work (90.0% versus 71.5% respectively; P=.01). Disuptive behavior was experienced by 93% of interns; 54% reported that they experienced it once a month or more. Interns reported disruptive behavior significantly more frequently than attending physicians, including increased reports of condescending behavior (odds ratio [OR], 5.46 for interns compared with attendings; P<.001), exclusion from decision making (OR, 6.97; P<001), and berating (OR, 4.84; P=.02). Inappropriate jokes, abusive language, and gender bias were also reported, and they were not significantly more frequent among interns than attending physicians. Interns most frequently identified nurses as the source of disruption, and were significantly more likely than faculty to identify nurses as the source of disruptive behavior (OR, 10.40; P<.001). Attendings reported other physicians as the most frequent source of disruption.

Conclusions: Although interns generally feel respected at work, they frequently experience disruptive behavior. Interns described more disruptive behaviors than a convenience sample of attending physicians at our institution.


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