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PSNet: Patient Safety Network
Journal Article

Physicians' perceptions, preparedness for reporting, and experiences related to impaired and incompetent colleagues.

DesRoches CM, Rao SR, Fromson JA, et al. JAMA. 2010;304(2):187-193.

Patient safety initiatives will increasingly balance the tension between systems change and individual accountability, and medical professionalism is often at the center of this discussion. Although certain behaviors in medical school predict unprofessional behavior, efforts to teach these skills have been described, particularly in addressing disruptive behavior. This study surveyed physicians and found that nearly 70% believe that it is their professional responsibility to report an impaired or incompetent colleague. However, of those with knowledge of such a colleague, 33% failed to report them to a relevant authority. Barriers to reporting included a belief that it wasn’t their responsibility, nothing would happen from reporting them, and fear of retribution. A related editorial discusses medical professionalism in the context of this study’s findings and weighs different strategies to address the challenges. A past AHRQ WebM&M conversation and commentary also discuss professionalism and patient safety.