Surgery case study (from ‘Specialties in Practitioner Performance Advice cases’)

Insight report resource

Surgery and behavioural assessment case study: Normalised aggressive and uncivil behaviour of a consultant surgeon

This is a composite case study with some facts altered to protect confidentiality.

Read full Insights publication ‘Specialties in Practitioner Performance Advice cases: Key themes and use of our services’.

Features of the case

A long-standing consultant surgeon was subject to a complaint from a trainee doctor, who the consultant had shouted at in theatre. Although this initially appeared to management to be an isolated incident, theatre staff who had witnessed it also reported that the consultant had been uncivil towards the whole team leading up to the incident and this was not uncommon behaviour.  Colleagues were said to have grown accustomed to the consultant’s behaviour, causing a level of anxiety across the team when they had to work together.

The Clinical Director had met with the consultant who stated the behaviour was unacceptable and reminded the consultant of their responsibilities and expectations of respectful behaviour and communication.

How did Advice respond?

The Case Adviser recommended that the Clinical Director’s discussion with the consultant should be documented, including any agreed outcomes and/or expectations. An Advice service behavioural assessment was also recommended as a useful means of providing an independent view on the behavioural characteristics of the consultant. The assessment would help to identify any areas for development and provide information to assist the trust in making any decisions around further management.

What action did the trust take?

A formal request for a behavioural assessment was made by the trust and accepted by the Advice service. The assessment consisted of the consultant completing three online psychometric questionnaires and then attending an in-depth interview with an occupational psychologist, who subsequently compiled the assessment report.

The report highlighted behavioural characteristics of the consultant, including an open and honest approach to communication, but with limited self-awareness as to the impact this can have on others. The report recommended that the consultant work with a behavioural coach to address the negative aspects of their communication, as well as accessing educational courses which focused on influencing and persuading others.

What was the outcome?

The consultant met with their behavioural coach and together identified a personal development plan to address the report recommendations, with milestones for achievement. The objectives were agreed between the consultant and Clinical Director, with regular reviews scheduled to check on progress. The Advice service remained available for ongoing advice and support as the consultant progressed through the personal development plan.

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