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On doctors, again

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Do doctors like nurses? Do you ever wonder?

The thing is, I value good physicians, I like doctors, I do! Yet here is the thing—and I’m trying not to generalize here—just looking at my career in health care on the whole:

I have been a unit secretary, was a CNA, a med tech in the ED, etc. So, I’ve been around the block. But no other hospital relationship is more cantankerous, it seems, than the nurse-doctor one.

I will never forget, back in the days before nursing school, as a unit secretary, when I got my first physician-tongue-lashing. He literally cursed me out for a non-emergent clerical error. It was at that point that I kind of clued into the fact that doctors may be hard to work with. Yeah, I had no idea.

As a nurse the relationship is more delicate. Yes, I have been yelled at at 3AM over the phone. Yes, I have been vehemently disagreed with over patient care—those things are somewhat understandable if not altogether inexcusable. But it is strange to be ignored by some physicians. Or for them to be somewhat inhuman and rude no matter what time of day, over the phone, or face-to-face.

I still wonder if doctors just see us nurses as slave labor? Honestly, I feel somewhat mistreated by some of them at times.

For instance, one doctor, on my reasonable suggestion that we discontinue a certain treatment based on the patients SBAR, screamed at me, “You can do whatever you like if you don’t mind KILLING THE PATIENT AND HER BABY!” Needless to say, I continued treatment. Ahem.

How about the doc who threw the instrument in the OR because he was handed the wrong one? Or the resident who snarled an obscenity when it was suggested he wash his hands after just delivering an HIV+ patient in one room, then going straight to another room to deliver another patient (and yes, the suggestion was made out of patient earshot)? Or the doctor who yelled, “Don’t you dare call me at home tonight–I need to sleep” when his patient was clearly going to deliver in the middle of the night? I mean, what am I supposed to do?

Do you have as many stories as I do?

Then there is the discussion board of residents who continually belittle nurses and the nursing profession in their posts. Many docs don’t recognize us as professionals, it seems.

Yes I do have some very good relationships with doctors, but I am going to say here that on the whole, doctors seem somewhat annoyed, irritated and fed-up with nurses. They take out their aggression towards their jobs and their patients on the people they work the most closely with: Us.

My mom, a retired nurse with 30 years of experience, would agree. My coworkers would and have agreed. No, it’s not just me. What is the deal? Aren’t we supposed to be working together? We BOTH as physicians and nurses have stressful jobs, so is that really even a good excuse anymore? And how can we change?

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Amy Bozeman

Amy is many things: a blogger, a nurse, a wife, a mom, a childbirth educator. She started her journey towards a career in nursing when she got pregnant with her first child. After nursing school and studying "like she has never studied before" she entered the nursing profession eager to get her feet wet. The first years provided her with much exposure to sadness, joy and other complex human emotions. She feels that blogging is a wonderful outlet and a way for nurse bloggers to further build their community. Traditionally, midwives have handed down their skill set from midwife to apprentice midwife. She believes nurses have this same opportunity: to pass from nurse to new nurse the rich traditions of this profession.

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5 Responses to On doctors, again

  1. Carla

    I have had an instance where a doctor wrote specific orders to call with the results of a CBC, when I called he ripped me a new one about calling and not knowing about the transfusion order guidelines he had already written. The whole situation would have been ok if I had called and not seen the guidelines, but there was a specific order to call with the results.

  2. I have found in my career that doctors are under great stress with the lives of patients to deal with, and, yes, sometimes that lose it when a nurse calls about little trivial matters that could be dealt with when rounds are made, that are mot life and death situations. I have also found out that by not cowering in the face of a tongue lashing but giving back as good as what was dished out at you seems to make the physician stand up and take notice that you WILL not put up with their crap regardless of how superior they think themselves to you. the doctors at my hospital know and recognize my skill and intellect, and know if I call them about one of their patients that it Is an urgent matter or that something is not right with one of their patients. I believe that you have to earn the respect of each doctor for them to back off and realize that, yes, we are both on the same team and patient care is of the utmost concern when a phone call comes in. Some might not agree with this statement but i have witness many dressing downs to new, inexperienced nurses and see the fear in their eyes when they realize that they must call and report to a doctor. I had my head bitten off several times when I started out also, and try to encourage the new nurses to stand their ground hen they call a doctor and to make sure it is something worthwhile to disturb them in the middle of the night about or during the day. As i related to one doctor that jumped down my throat because i woke him up while napping one Sunday, that if he didn’t care about his patient, I wouldn’t call him back to disturb him if that was what he wanted me to do. He to this day, asks my opinion about some of the patient care issues around his patients. Remember, they are only human too and put their pants on one leg at time time like everyone else does!!

  3. Kelli Waller, RN

    Well, I have to say I’ve worked with some incredible docs: Trauma surgeons, neurosurgeons, internal medicine, family practice.. many others. Most of them have been really professional, considerate, & even helpful on occasion. There have been a few incidents where there were disagreements & an occasional condescending remark, but on the whole the docs have been respectful. On one occasion, a 4th or 5th year neurosurgery resident was really verbally abusive to one of my co-workers… and the attending neurosurgeon, the hospital chief of staff, fired the resident. He had to find a new residency program to finish his specialty. That set the precedent for how the residents in that particular hospital treated the nurses.

  4. susan

    it’s about respect…we will never be a respected profession because we don;t respect each other. Nurses do not stand up for each other. Nurses do not demand the pay they deserve for their education, continuing certifications, ptatient knowledge . Nurses need to fight for a nurse/pt ratio law, but won’t band together and fight for the safety of their patients and their license, nurses will continue to work short staffed and put safety last. I know, we are all told nothing will happen, but as a travel nurse, I have seen it happen…it only takes one incident!!! When are nurses going to really want to be respected for what we do, our knowledge and the incredable responsibility we have!!

  5. Heather

    When I hired on at the hospital, I was already a nurse for 11 years or so… not a newbie. However, I was “new” to the facility, and I guess some of the docs assumed I was a grad. On my first night off orientation, I had a doc barrel into the room where I was admitting a patient, physically push me out of the room, and shut the door in my face, saying “My turn, get out.” Oh really. He picked the wrong nurse to do that to. I waited outside the door, and when he opened it, I reached behind him, closed it again, lowered my chin, looked him in the eye, and in my most menacing voice, said, “Look. I don’t know who you are, or who you think I am, but do not EVER do that to me again.” (and a few other things – politely of course ;)) He sputtered a bit, then went off to do his paperwork. After he was done, he apologized to me and made some excuses about a bad day etc. We never had another problem.
    Today, I work for that same doctor, in his endoscopy center, and we get along extremely well in some very close quarters. :)