Witnessed Incivility and Perceptions of Patients and Visitors in Hospitals

Emily A. Vargas*, Ramaswami Mahalingam, Riley A. Marshall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Research has examined instances of incivility witnessed by physicians, nurses, or employees in hospitals. Although patients and visitors are members in hospitals, witnessed incivility from their perspective has rarely been empirically investigated. The aims of the current study are 2-fold: (1) to investigate the forms of incivility patients/visitors witness in hospitals and (2) to examine whether these patients/visitors believe these incivilities impact the target’s sense of perceived control. An integration of interpretative phenomenological analysis and thematic analysis was used to code qualitative data (N = 77). Eight themes of witnessed incivility and 3 themes for impact on perceived control were identified. The results illuminate patterns of incivility targeted at marginalized groups, historically underrepresented in hospital-focused incivility research (eg, homeless individuals, incarcerated individuals, the elderly individuals). The majority of witnesses believed the incident of incivility would negatively impact the target’s perception of control, possibly affecting their experience and health. The current study demonstrates that empirically investigating witnessed incivility from the patient/visitor perspective provides critical information about the unique patterns of mistreatment occurring within hospital contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Patient Experience
StatePublished - 2021


  • incivility
  • patients
  • respect
  • well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Leadership and Management


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