When surgeons throw scalpels, anger-management experts get the call

Joint Commission has called on hospitals to address disruptive docs

For years, hospitals and medical groups have tolerated physicians' disruptive behavior—whether berating staff or throwing objects in surgery—but now more organizations are turning to anger-management experts, Bloomberg News reports.

According to a 2011 American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) survey, more than 26% of physicians admit to disruptive behavior at work, and two-thirds of physicians say they have witnessed it in colleagues. Anger specialists note that medical professionals deal with more stress than most, in part because of the stakes, their hours, and the threat of lawsuits.

More organizations began focusing on the issue in 2009, when the Joint Commission mandated that hospitals curb "disruptive" behavior in staff members. Kaiser Permanente, for example, recently contracted with anger management specialist George Anderson to address anger issues in physicians.

Last year, Anderson says more than 30% of his income came from providing anger management therapy to medical workers. He expects that percentage to grow this year and has tailored a version of his workbook, "The Practice of Control," to physicians to address their needs.

How anger management for physicians works

Anger management courses from Anderson cost $5,000 per session in his Los Angeles office and more than $8,000 per on-site session.

In those courses, Anderson teaches physicians to defuse a tantrum by using breathing techniques, time outs, and positive thinking. Anderson says that physicians are quicker than most professionals to recognize that they have a problem when confronted with low scores on "emotional self-awareness" tests.

He estimates that four-fifths of physicians who undergo his anger management training curb their workplace outbursts. "I can't imagine any other population of clients that does as well," Anderson says (Sheinbaum, Bloomberg, 8/2).


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