Mass General Brigham unveils new “Patient Code of Conduct”

BOSTON — Mass General Brigham is cracking down on patients who cross the line.

The healthcare provider released its new Patient Code of Conduct this week, with a list of behavior towards staff members that will no longer be tolerated.

“We recognize the threat of disrespectful, racist or discriminatory words and actions on members of our community. Just as we have policies for our employees and clinicians to treat each other and every patient and visitor with courtesy and respect, this policy helps to define appropriate behaviors for patients, family members, visitors and research participants,” the company said in a statement.

The Code of Conduct provides examples of words and actions no longer welcome at the hospital, including physical and verbal threats, offensive comments about others’ race, accent, religion, gender or sexual orientation, and refusal to see clinicians or staff members based on those personal traits.

“If we believe you have violated the Code with unwelcome words or actions, you will be given the chance to explain your point of view,” the policy states. “Some violations of this Code may lead to patients being asked to make other plans for their care.”

Massachusetts Nurses Association President Katie Murphy said Mass General Brigham is the first hospital system in the state to implement a code of conduct.

“We’re seeing threats of violence. [Patient behavior] has certainly gotten worse since the pandemic,” Murphy said. “People will be shown that there’s really a policy and you cannot treat healthcare providers like that.”

Hospital worker abuse and harassment is a nationwide problem. National Nurses United surveyed 2,575 nurses in April. 48 percent reported a small or significant increase in workplace violence, more than double the percentage reported the year before.

Dr. Alaska Pendleton, a Mass General vascular surgery resident, said patient behavior has always been an issue but got worse after the pandemic.

“There’s a lot of racial and gender discrimination that we experience,” Pendleton said. “It’s exceedingly difficult to be performing surgery or taking care of someone on the floor if they’re discriminating against you if you’re a woman, if you’re Black, or if you’re some other minority. It’s really challenging.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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