A Focus on Professionalism May Help Reduce the Number of Patient Complaints

In a 2015 study led by the Senior Vice President for Patient Safety and Quality at the illustrious Johns Hopkins Medicine, Peter Pronovost, MD, Ph.D. found that the “Wish List” of the patients surveyed was quite telling. Of the top 10 items of concerns patients expressed, a lack of professionalism on the job was one of their chief complaints. In fact, if you look at the entire list, which was published by U.S. News & World Report, each and every complaint can be traced back to a lack of professional and ethical behavior in their dealings with patients in their care.

A Glance at the Patient Wish List

First, it is important to understand a bit more about the coordinators of the study. Dr. Pronovost is also the director of the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, and the survey was compiled in conjunction with Johns Hopkins’ patient relations director, Jan Hill. In their combined efforts to better serve patients, the pair set out to compile a list of the most common patient concerns. It was their hope that this list would open the lines of communication with hospitals seeking to improve patient care and relations, but many healthcare professionals were astonished at the list of complaints they would never have imagined to be a problem. Again, many issues lead back to professional behavior on the job which they felt was somehow lacking. The list of complaints included:

  1. Being deprived of sleep
  2. Unacceptable levels of noise at nurses’ stations
  3. Personal belongings missing/lost
  4. Entering patients’ rooms without knocking
  5. Whiteboards not being updated
  6. Lack of communication with patients and their families
  7. Rooms not being properly cleaned
  8. Not having a voice in their care
  9. Not being advised on things like ordering food and operating the television
  10. Hospital staff exhibiting a serious lack of professional behavior

If you look closely at each of those entries, you will see that most would not be an issue if hospital staff had been better prepared to present themselves professionally in all aspects of their job and while on the hospital’s premises. Patients stated clearly that it is not enough for healthcare workers to act appropriately while in a patient’s room. They should also conduct themselves with a professional dignity in the halls, in the cafeteria, and in an area where they are likely to encounter patients and/or their visitors.

A Closer Look at Seemingly Insignificant Details

To the average healthcare worker, be it a nurse, a respiratory therapist or even a floor secretary, some of those complaints might seem insignificant in a system that is currently overwhelmed. It is agreed that there is a severe shortage of trained professionals and many hospitals are working understaffed most of the time. Even so, it doesn’t take much to explain to a patient how to work the remote for the television or when the food menu needs to be completed for the following day.

Nurses can always be cognizant of the fact that patients are in the hospital because they are ill or have surgical procedures scheduled. Some are post-op patients, and all have a common need to rest and recuperate. Noisy nurses’ stations are one of the leading complaints and there is no reason why nurses can’t keep the noise levels reduced with a little effort. In other words, you may be working the 10 PM to 6 AM shift, but that’s the time a patient is trying to get a good night’s sleep!

Shortage of Healthcare Workers Is No Excuse for Lack of Professional Behavior

This all boils down to training. If a growing number of educational institutions begin to address these concerns, many of these complaints can be significantly reduced. Citing a shortage of nurses and aids is no excuse for exhibiting behavior that is anything less than professional. Some academies have taken this information to heart and are now focusing on instructing their students on the need to present themselves as professionals at all times when on the healthcare facility’s grounds. Schools like the Ultimate Medical Academy that has both online and Clearwater campus programs for:

  • Dental Assistants
  • Medical Assistants
  • Nursing Assistants
  • Patient Care Technicians
  • Phlebotomy Technicians

You can read more here to see just how much emphasis schools like this place on instructing prospective graduates to perform their duties with a level of professionalism sorely lacking in many of today’s institutions.

What This Study Says About the Future of Healthcare

In recent years, there has been a huge push to enable patients to be proactive in their care plans. This study is just one example of how the industry is moving forward to give providers the tools they need to better serve their patients/consumers. From government’s mandating the use of EMRs (Electronic Medical Records) and EHRs (Electronic Health Records) to doctors endorsing and using wearables to help patients self-monitor their progress, it is understood that the patients themselves can help to improve the way the system works.

No matter what the ultimate reason for such a shortage of trained professionals might be, by giving patients an opportunity to be proactive in their own care, much of the stress can be relieved. Living in a digital world doesn’t equate with the dehumanization of patient relations. By giving patients the respect they deserve, professionalism will rise exponentially, that’s a given. Patients just want to be heard in most of the above cases.

How Would You Respond If Given the Above Survey?

Now it’s time to think about the last time you were treated in a medical facility. Whether you were an inpatient or seen in an outpatient setting, were you given the respect you deserve? Were you given an opportunity to express your needs and concerns? Do you feel doctors, nurses and staff acted professionally while at their posts or on the facility’s property?

The bottom line is that there will always be those who look at this as a “job.” Most doctors, nurses, and related healthcare workers feel a real calling to serve in their capacity and sometimes it’s just a matter of not knowing they are adding to the distress patients are already experiencing. With better training and a greater focus on professionalism on the job, many of these complaints can be eliminated. That’s the hope of healthcare for the future.