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Imagine that you are a nurse in a large hospital. You have heard that there is new doctor in the psychiatry department but you have not met him. One day, you receive a call from Dr. Smith (the new doctor) telling you that he wants you to give Ms. Ruben, a patient, a dose of Astroten before he comes to examine her. He asks if you have it in stock and waits for your answer. You check the medicine shelf and find that you do have it and it clearly shows that the maximum dose should be 10 milligrams. He then orders you to give her 20 milligrams. Would you comply?
This was an actual field experiment under real world circumstances by Hofling, et al. (1966). Would it surprise you to know that 95% of the nurses who were called complied with the doctors order? This was true even though the dosage was clearly excessive and it was against hospital rules to take medication orders over the telephone.
Using what you have learned in this unit, can you explain the behavior of the nurses in this situation? Why did they obey the doctor even though they were breaking the rules and putting the patient at risk? Be sure to support your answer with information from the textbook or other appropriate psychology-specific sources. What implication does this have for hospital practices given the estimated 7700 deaths per year in the U.S. caused by medication errors in hospitals?
Hofling, C., Brotzman, E., Dalrymple, S., Graves, N., & Pierce, C. (1966). An experimental study in nurse-physician relations.Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 143, 171–: 180.
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