Well Being

Three Unprofessional Behaviors in the Health Profession


In the clinical context, most workers seek to provide the best possible care. However, healthcare professionals are only human beings and they can make mistakes. Unfortunately, these failures undermine confidence in health systems and the profession itself. That said, many of them are only a consequence of a lack of means or highly improvable working conditions.

Maximizing the clinical care provided and humanizing it requires understanding the influence of various different factors. These are the frequency, type, sources, and causes of wrong behaviors. In fact, some studies have found that almost six out of ten health professionals could exhibit at least one erroneous behavior per month (Kirsten et al., 2023).

“The main goal of medicine is not simply to cure disease, but to promote the health and well-being of our patients.”

-Marcia Angell-

Ethics in the health profession

Being professional and ethical in the healthcare context implies “promoting trustworthy behaviors both with patients and with the healthcare system”. Consequently, erroneous or unprofessional behavior erodes patient-professional communication, confidence in any interventions, and learning (Wiegman et al., 2007).

Among the effects that wrong or unethical behaviors have are the kinds of adverse events that deteriorate both the physical and mental health of patients. This is known as ‘iatrogenic’. It’s a term that refers to ‘the deleterious effects of poor health care, misbehavior, or contraindicated treatment or therapy’. For example:

Iatrogenicity affects many healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, biologists, psychologists, and others. Experts seek to minimize its effects by studying the (often unintentional) factors that harm the patient. They try to achieve it via codes of good practice, protocols, and clinical practice.

On the other hand, we want to make it clear that most professionals behave in accordance with extremely high ethical and deontological standards (Villafranca et al., 2016). Indeed, as a rule, they’re committed both to their work and the care of their patients.

However, behaviors such as discrimination against certain patients based on their sex or ethnicity or the lack of empathy in dealing with them impact both patients and other health professionals.

“Humanizing healthcare means paying attention to people’s needs, not just their illnesses.”

-Juan Gervás-

One of the unprofessional behaviors of health professionals is employing little tact when reporting diagnoses.

Unprofessional behaviors among health professionals

Unprofessional behaviors in the healthcare context affect the perception of the patient’s psychological well-being (Atkinson et al., 2018). Among their consequences are symptoms of anxiety and stress, deterioration in communication, concentration deficits, and, of course, deterioration in the relationship between the psychologist (or psychiatrist) and the patient.

Next, we’ll review three specific unprofessional behaviors that have been observed.

“Deontology not only implies compliance with a set of norms and rules but also implies the development of a moral sensitivity and an ethical attitude in the exercise of the profession.”

-Tomas Maestre-

1. Communication

As a result of work overload or emotional difficulties in the professional’s life, they might sometimes communicate disrespectfully with patients and/or their families. As Terence of Ancient Rome said, “I am human and I think nothing human is alien to me”.

Unfortunately, professionals occasionally communicate results and verbal interventions tactlessly and contemptuously. Or, they ignore and minimize the concerns of the patient who comes to the consultation. This communication deficit potentially generates anxiety and stress.

Patients might feel extremely frustrated by this treatment by the professional. Indeed, it’s essential that the latter have enough time to care for their patients. Moreover, they must provide them with any information they need.

“The humanization of healthcare is not an addition to modern medicine, but rather a prerequisite for the success of any healthcare intervention.”

-Rita Charon-

2. Clinical practice

Impersonal treatment toward the patient is another unprofessional behavior. Patients are human beings and should be treated as such. Being impersonal doesn’t mean being more professional. Health professionals must take into account what the patient needs on an emotional level, in order to be empathetic about their concerns and show compassion for their suffering.

Another unprofessional behavior is a breach of confidentiality. This is because in order to promote trust between the patient and the psychologist (or other healthcare professionals) their rights to privacy must be respected.

This right is also protected by the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Consequently, the healthcare professional has to be extraordinarily discreet and ensure the confidentiality of the information provided in clinical practice.

“A good professional treats the disease; a great professional treats the person who has the disease.”

-William Osler-

Doctors in a discussion in hospital
Work problems among medical personnel have repercussions on patients.

3. Treatment between the professionals

As we mentioned earlier, unprofessional behavior can also be observed in dealings between different professionals. For example, harassing, intimidating, and discriminatory behaviors by medical supervisors toward students and residents have been observed (Dabekaussen et al., 2023).

Discrimination is an act that simply can’t be accepted. Neither in this context nor in others. Health professionals must show respect toward their colleagues, regardless of rank, gender, sexual orientation, or ideological and political values. Indeed, among other reasons, the work environment among health professionals has a direct impact on the treatment offered to the patient (Atkinson et al., 2018).

There’s extensive research on these issues. In fact, it’s been found that when healthcare professionals make mistakes, it can be due to numerous causes.

Despite this fact, there are certain protocols and measures that seek to minimize both inappropriate behaviors and the effects they may cause. Therefore, experts have created in situ interventions with the aim of reducing these harmful behaviors (Atkinson et al., 2018).

“Medicine (and other health disciplines) is a sacred profession that treats and seeks to alleviate human pain, disease, injury, and weakness.”

-Thomas Inman-

The post Three Unprofessional Behaviors in the Health Profession appeared first on Exploring your mind.


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