Ulf Liebe, Elias Naumann, Andreas Tutić
Prosocial Behavior Across Professional Boundaries: Experimental Evidence From Hospitals

SAGE Open, 2019: 9, issue 2, (e-only)
ISSN: 2158-2440 (online)

Differences in social status might impede teamwork and cooperation among health professionals. Against this background, we study the social interaction between health professionals using a simple experimental tool from behavioral economics (the dictator game). In our setup, physicians, nurses, and student nurses had to allocate monetary endowments between themselves and recipients, whereby the professional status of the recipient (physician, nurse, and student nurse) was varied. This way, we obtain insights into the prosocial motives of health professionals. Our results indicate a considerable amount of pure altruistic concern for the welfare of others among health practitioners, which also reaches across professional boundaries. These findings put concerns expressed in the literature on the doctor–nurse relationship such as a potential lack of team identity, in-group favoritism, and overly strict hierarchies along professional boundaries into perspective. Our study also paves the way for further experimental research on the relationship between social status and cooperation in the medical sector.