If you think being tough with your child's doctor is the right way to ensure better care, think again. A new study out of the University of Florida suggests that rude parents can cause serious, even deadly, consequences. Researchers who staged emergency situations in a neonatal intensive care unit at an Israeli hospital found that doctors and nurses performed significantly worse when confronted with an actress playing an angry mother. While there is much concern about medical errors, the third-leading cause of death in the US, medical professionals are "not paying attention at all to the effect that social interactions can have on performance," co-author Amir Erez tells HealthDay. The new findings, he adds, "could potentially save lives." In the study, four medical teams were assigned to treat infant dummies during day-long emergency situations including respiratory distress and shock.
An actress playing a rude mom harangued three of the teams first thing in the morning, accusing them of doling out "Third World" care and threatening to seek treatment elsewhere. The fourth team served as a control group and was spared the hostility. The teams exposed to rudeness underperformed in all of the study's 11 measures throughout the day. But researchers found they could "immunize" doctors to rudeness by prepping them ahead of time with computer games that desensitized them to sharp emotions. In the end, the lesson is that doctors and nurses are people, too, and find it harder to work when they're "being emotionally attacked," says an American Academy of Pediatrics rep. (In lighter fare, politeness can help in online searches, too.)