New parents are stressed, sleep-deprived, and cranky, especially if their newborn babies are in the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU).
New parents are (understandably) stressed, sleep-deprived, and cranky, especially if their newborn babies are in the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU), but a new study from Tel Aviv University suggests that if those parents are rude to the doctors taking care of their babies, the consequences can be dangerous, maybe even fatal.
Researchers wanted to examine how rudeness impacts medical culture, so they enlisted actors and a fake baby to simulate a crisis scenario in which the fake mother was rude to the doctors.
They found that when she said, “I knew we should have gone to a better hospital where they don’t practice third-world medicine,” both the doctors and nurses’ individual performances as well as their teamwork deteriorated more than when she made a more general comment about simply being worried.
In fact, researchers found that the medical team’s ability to perform in critical situations with sick infants was affected for the rest of the day.
“At the level of the team, it really hampers all the function,” Arieh Riskin, the director of the neonatal intensive care unit at Bnai Zion Medical Center in Haifa and the lead author of the study, told the New York Times.
“All the collaborative mechanisms and things that make a team a team, rather than four individuals working separately, were damaged by the exposure to rudeness.”
Riskin added that this study is consistent with other studies, which have shown that even mild rudeness can have a significant impact on workplace performance.
For example, in an earlier study that Riskin oversaw, he and his colleagues hired someone to act as a senior-level American surgeon who was observing an NICU team.
When the observer made a derogatory remark, saying that “Teams like the ones I have seen here in Israel wouldn’t last a week in my department,” the NICU team started performing significantly worse in simulated patient emergencies.
Not only did their diagnostic skills deteriorate, their technical abilities (such as ordering and giving medications or resuscitating babies) did as well. If that weren’t bad enough, they also worked less effectively as a team.
While both studies were done in Israel, Peter Bamberger, associate dean for research at Coller School of Management at Tel Aviv University and co-author of the study, told the New York Times that he doesn’t think the impact is “culturally bound.”
“Israelis are not deemed to be the most polite people in the world; they say what’s on their mind,” Dr. Bamberger said.
“The evidence suggests that even in a somewhat rude society, it still has an effect.”
The bottom line? No matter how sleep-deprived you are, there’s almost never a good excuse for being rude to people, period (remember learning about the Golden Rule as a kid?), but when it comes down to being rude to the doctors taking care of your child’s life, it could literally be a matter of life and death.
No matter how stressed, worried, or angry you feel, it’s worth taking an extra second to really think about what you want to say.