What do doctors want? “To lead.”
A Scrubs Exclusive: We team Dr. Brady Pregerson, our favorite ER Doc, with Nurse Rebekah Child, our favorite sassy RN.
MD said:When a nurse questions a doctor’s order, the way the question is asked can have a big effect on how pleasantly it’s received. If a question feels like an accusation of improper care, the recipient may feel challenged and become annoyed—not fun for either party.
If, instead, the same question is asked in a less challenging way and feels more like a request for clarification or education, it’s likely to be better received.
Here’s an example. Not great: “Doctor, why would you order potassium for the patient in bed 3 who has a normal potassium?” Better: “Doctor, I saw you ordered potassium for the patient in bed 3, but the serum potassium is fine. Is there something I don’t know?” Best: “Doctor, I saw you ordered potassium for the patient in bed 3, but the serum potassium is fine. What should I tell them if they ask what it’s for?”
RN said: Yes, yes, that’s right. Isn’t it cute? Doctors want to feel like they are in charge…but it doesn’t mean they are. It just makes me want to pinch their little MD cheeks.
All jesting aside, no one wants to be treated like an imbecile. You know the feeling when that snotty little 8-year-old cousin/niece/nephew tries to challenge you? That’s how it can feel when someone says, “Uh, Dr. DummyPants, its soooo obvious that you ordered the wrong medication on this patient—geez, did you get your license online or something?”
Go back to the communication golden rule: Speak in a way that you would like to be spoken to. And remember in Psychiatric Nursing 101 when you were told to never ask a psychiatric patient a “why” question? The same applies for the human population in general. It automatically puts people on the defensive.
And doctors are the people that you want to have your back when you make a mistake. (And trust me, you will.) Doctors need nurses. It’s just a fact. Ask those who were administrators during a well-known HMO RN strike that left the doctors to do all the nursing work…disaster! On the flip side, however, we need MDs, too, right? Otherwise we’d be left with a whole lot of knowledge, no way to get labs on tough sticks (gotta love those central lines) and a lawsuit for practicing outside our scope.
Brady Pregerson, MD, a returned Peace Corps volunteer and winner of the 1995 Wise Preventive Medicine Scholarship, completed his medical school at the University of California, San Diego, and his residency at Los Angeles County General Hospital. He has authored three medical pocket books for nurses and doctors, as well as the educational web sites erpocketbooks.com and gotsafety.org.
Dr. Pregerson currently works as an emergency physician in Southern California. He writes, "Although the ED environment may be quite different from working on the hospital floor or in an office setting, I am hopeful that you can take these tips and apply them to your own specific work situation." You can buy his books on lessons from the ER, including Don't Try This At Home: Lessons from the Emergency Department and Think Twice: More Lessons from the ER, at amazon.com.
By Brady Pregerson, MD