Surgeons are often the most accomplished and gifted individuals in the medical field. Becoming a surgeon requires extensive schooling, lengthy residencies and constant dedication. As such, the surgical profession draws only the most elite candidates from across the medical world.

However, surgeons are often notorious for treating patients and colleagues with a rude or unprofessional attitude. While this is somewhat common in professions that require a high level of commitment and drive, these behaviors may put patients at an increased risk of injury.

A 2019 study published in JAMA Surgery, a leading peer-reviewed medical journal, reveals a correlation between a surgeon’s treatment of his or her medical team and an increase in patient injuries. The investigation included reports from over 13,000 patients and covered more than 200 surgeons. Findings indicate that surgeons with the most reports of mistreatment had the highest number of patients with post-surgical complications. The study analyzed reports of unprofessional behavior for up to three years prior to injuring a patient. Conduct tracked by the study included:

  • Lack of professionalism
  • Disrespect toward coworkers
  • Unclear directions
  • Unsafe behaviors

The analysis concluded that surgeons with one or more reports of behaviors like these were increasingly likely to put patients at higher risk of post-surgical complications. Patients were up to 14% more likely to suffer complications such as infections, strokes or kidney failure.

For patients, this is disturbing. The World Health Organization reports that close to seven million patients each year suffer from severe complications after surgery. But thankfully, reports like the JAMA study provide feedback to surgeons who can then alter their behavior to improve overall patient safety.