SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON -- Doctors, nurses and other health-care workers seldom challenge a colleague when they see mistakes being made in patient care, according to a new study.
Researchers spent more than 10,000 hours observing and interviewing more than 2,000 health workers at 19 hospitals around the country.
Among the stories they heard were of a nurse who gave up reminding a colleague to put up safety rails on a child's bed; a pharmacist who dispensed an inadequate prescription for pain medicine to a patient from a doctor who's a "jerk" and gives the pharmacy a hard time if challenged; and a nurse who watched a colon-surgery patient die after failing to convince a doctor who intimidated her that the man was in trouble.
None of the health workers or hospitals was identified by name.
The study, released Wednesday, was co-sponsored by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) and VitalSmarts, a California firm that consults on leadership and organizational performance.
"People working in health centers see things every day that endanger patients, but only a small percentage of them talk with their colleagues about what they've seen," said Joseph Grenny, president of VitalSmarts.
"What really surprised us was that not only are nurses reluctant to confront doctors and other nurses, but that doctors almost never speak up, even about problems with nurses."