Niceness Could Lead to Better Medical Care When You're in Labor—or When Your Baby Is Sick

Studies show rude behavior could be dangerous to the health of you or your baby.

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Something you should consider as you're getting ready to give birth: You can’t kill someone with kindness, but a new study shows that rudeness to medical professionals could impact the quality of the care you receive. A study by University of Florida management professor Amir Erez and doctoral student Trevor Foulk, published in Pediatrics, found that medical teams perform poorly on a whole slew of measures, including diagnosing accurately, developing a good treatment plan, and communication, when the patient (or the patient's loved ones) berate them.

For the study, 39 neonatal intensive care unit teams, made up of two doctors and two nurses, went through simulations with infant medical mannequins needing treatment for specific dangerous medical conditions, including respiratory distress and shock. For some groups, an actress portraying the baby's mother was rude, while she was more neutral with others.

The researchers found that the doctors who were yelled at by the mother performed significantly worse at diagnosing and treating the problem—and that the poor performance lasted all day long. (So don't think that nurse is going to "get over" your rude comment.)

"[Rudeness] is actually affecting the cognitive system, which directly affects your ability to perform," Erez said. "That tells us something very interesting. People may think that doctors should just 'get over' the insult and continue doing their job. However, the study shows that even if doctors have the best intentions in mind, as they usually do, they cannot get over rudeness because it interferes with their cognitive functioning without an ability to control it."

Moral of the story: While you should always, always advocate for yourself and for your child, being rude to your medical professionals could cost you—dearly.