Stress and Dehumanizing Behaviors of Medical Staff Toward Patients

  • Alicja GłębockaEmail author
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 1133)


Dehumanization is defined as aggressive behaviors which offend people’s dignity. This phenomenon is a serious problem in medicine as it affects interpersonal relationships between medical professionals and patients, patients’ well-being, and the capability of following medical recommendations. There are a few factors determining dehumanizing behaviors: infrahumanization, perceiving patients as nonhuman beings, compassion fatigue, and stress. The main goal of this study was to examine the impact of stress on dehumanizing behaviors. A quasi-experimental survey was conducted in a group of 96 nurses. The following psychometric measures were employed in the study: scale of behavioral indicators of patient’s dehumanization (SBIPD), mood adjective checklist (UMACL), interpersonal reactivity index (IRI) assessing aspects of empathy, and the Eysenck personality traits (EPQ-R) questionnaires. Comparative inter-group analysis (experimental vs. control) confirmed that stress on the side of medical professionals influenced the acceptance of dehumanization; it particularly influenced the cognitive evaluations of patent dehumanizing behaviors. These evaluations have no relationship to empathy, neuroticism, and psychoticism in the control group. However, moderate correlation occurred between the patent dehumanization and neuroticism in the experimental group. The findings lead to the conclusion that stress experienced in the work setting can have an effect on dehumanizing practices in medicine. One of the best ways to combat dehumanization in medicine is to reduce stress by improving the work conditions.


Compassion fatigue Dehumanization Empathy Infrahumanization Medicine 



The study was co-financed from the funds allocated to the statutory activity of the Faculty of Psychology and Humanities of the Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski University, Cracow, Poland; project WPiNH/DS/5/2018.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflicts of interest in relation to this article.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study protocol was approved by the Research Project Committee of the Faculty of Psychology and Humanities, The Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski University in Cracow, Poland.

Informed Consent

Subjects participated in the study on a voluntary and anonymous basis. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Psychology and HumanitiesThe Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski UniversityCracowPoland

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