Medical Errors Report #10

A Four-Year Solution Implementation Study

Low Emotional Intelligence Reduces the Quality of Patient Care

Many of the professionals I encountered in health-care over the years have been very intelligent when it comes to academic qualifications. However, within their emotional intelligence, there are serious deficiencies. One of the greatest barriers to progress in fixing medical errors (or systemic failures) is the low level of emotional (tolerance) intelligence demonstrated by those in management. While working in the health-care industry for over 30 years, despite my background is in academics, I only encountered a couple of managers with high emotional intelligence. Health-care management as seen in first and second book is plagued with a dangerous crisis of emotional immaturity; lack of emotional intelligence, continuous outbursts, exaggerated emotions, including threats and harassments. This is like an endless battle everyday in hospitals. Sadly, the emotional crisis has no status. The problem attacks workers from the frontline equally as those in middle management and senior executives. Even physicians have been known for continuous temper tantrums when they do not get their way. Yelling and shouting at workers may be a psychological way to degrade employees; in reality, it demonstrates a low level of emotional intelligence. People with low self-esteem tend to use yelling as a form of self-empowerment and defense – “I’ll hit you before you hit me so I can over-power you – I’ll teach you who is in charge here.”

 Years ago, when physicians displayed temper tantrums using unprofessional language, people would attribute such behavior to higher professional status within the health-care industry. Today, people are beginning to see this as evidence of emotional immaturity, deterrence to progress and poor professionalism. I remember a memo sent by a nurse who happens to be an administrator of a hospital. She was urging workers to understand that physicians were yelling because they were frustrated due to increased in malpractice insurance. I said, give me a break! When we find excuses for people’s bad behavior, we indirectly sanction such behavior. There is no excuse for anybody berating another health-care professional. It is time for this childishness to stop!

 Many businesses have created anger management programs to help employees cope with daily stress of the work environment. Vindictive managers have sent some employees to such programs as a punitive action. But managers are hardly ever sent for anger management counseling. Some managers need anger management training more than their employees. The way managers relate to employees tends to determine the reaction of most employees. Looking outside oneself for blame is an old game managers play to avoid looking at themselves as the potential source of those problems.

 Lisa Hubbard reports about Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center in her article, “Nurses Expose Problems That Are Undermining Quality of Care,” (PR Newswire, Dec. 6, 2002). In her report, nurses challenged hospital board to hold their CEO accountable for declining standards of patient care. Nurses were asking the hospital administration to work with them to improve the quality of patient care because of shortage of staff and reduction in the number of experienced nurses. The report indicates that concern for patient safety has driven the hospital staff to join together to address the problem and in some situations to seek outside negotiators. Anne Tan Piazza wrote an article called,  “Nurses Filed Lawsuits Against Good Samaritan Hospitals,” (PR Newswire, July 26, 2002), discussing a staffing problem making it very difficult for nurses to take their breaks. The nurses filed a lawsuit against the hospital because of the staff shortage; the hospital was said to be in violation of the law. The nurses complained that not taking rest breaks places their patients in danger. They stressed that lack of rest breaks creates fatigue, which reduces their ability to respond to their patients needs and thereby reduces the quality of care.

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