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    Strategies for coping with a disruptive physician

    Experts emphasize prevention of bad behavior

    This article is part of Derm Pulse, brought to you by SolodynWhen a hospital’s top brass met recently to discuss how to cope with errors, the chief of surgery gathered her courage and confessed a mistake she’d made years earlier. While the surgeon’s error wasn’t fatal, she’d still felt guilt and shame.

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    “It had eaten away at her for years, but she was finally willing to share to make it easier for us to have that discussion,” recalls John Henry Pfifferling, Ph.D., who led the meeting. But the response wasn’t what the surgeon expected.

    The other doctors criticized her and even questioned whether she should continue as chief of surgery. “She was so vulnerable,” Dr. Pfifferling says, “and they couldn’t stand it. She violated the code that said don’t be vulnerable, don’t share, don’t feel.”

    Dr. Pfifferling, who’s spent decades fighting the menace of the “disruptive physician,” was appalled. But he wasn’t surprised. Too many physicians, he says, continue to isolate themselves and either ignore or discount the views of their colleagues. In a word, they disrupt.

    But Dr. Pfifferling, director of The Center for Professional Well-Being, and others haven’t given up on their efforts. Prevention and communication, they say, are crucial in every doctor’s office regardless of specialty or focus.

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    “No physician group is immune to this,” says Charles Samenow, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at George Washington University, who recently gave a presentation on disruptive physicians to medical professionals in Montevideo, Uruguay. “We want to help folks learn skills to improve the culture of medicine.”

    NEXT: Who is the disruptive physician?

    Randy Dotinga
    Randy Dotinga is a medical writer based in San Diego, Calif.

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