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What does a doctor want from a nurse?

Image: Adam Gault/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

It’s not a matter of what they want, but more of what they expect. Maybe it’s both? The bottom line is the nurse and physician have to work together as a team.

Let’s face it, they both play very important roles when caring for the patient, so I won’t sit here and disseminate each of their responsibilities, duties, task, etc. I like to think of the physician and nurse as a team. One cannot do their job to the best of their abilities if the other is not doing their part.

Let me be clear, these days, simply doing your job is not enough. The patients are sicker. The illnesses are more complex. The entire continuum of care has become more challenging. So just showing up for work is not enough – for either one!

If you want to know what the physician wants, maybe we should start with what you as the nurse want from the physician?

Here are a couple things that ALL nurses want from the physician (in my humble opinion):

  • Open line of communication
  • Treat as a member of the health care team
  • Respect
  • Trust
  • Good mannerisms (goes hand-in-hand with respect)
  • Support
  • Practice what you preach
  • Follow through (do what you say you are going to do)

Guess what? What do you think the physicians’ want from the nurses’?? Yep. The same.

  • Open line of communication
  • Treat as a member of the health care team
  • Respect
  • Trust
  • Good mannerisms
  • Support
  • Practice what you preach
  • Follow though

Now of course I am over-generalizing, but the message is the same. The physicians and the nurses need to work as a cohesive team in order to deliver the very best patient care and hopefully elicit the most ideal patient outcomes.

Here are some things to keep in mind in regards to the relationship you develop with a physician:

  • Their service or their area of practice has no bearing on your relationship. We are all trying to accomplish the same goal.
  • In order to gain respect, you must first earn it.
  • In order to gain trust, you must first earn it.
  • In the name of advocating for your patient, you are never wrong or out of place.
  • Unless you want to be the physician’s hand maiden, don’t act like one.
  • Professionalism wins over attitude and anger every time.

It’s not difficult to figure out that we nurses have to earn our keep. A physician is more likely to trust your judgment if you come prepared and have done your homework. Don’t call or page a physician unless you have all the facts laid out ahead of time. Never be empty-handed when providing information about your patient to the physician.

They may or may not care about your past experiences/knowledge (or lack there-of), they WILL care if you aren’t prepared.

In the end, it really is not a difficult scenario. We nurses and the physicians somehow like to make it as difficult as possible. I truly believe if you’re actions and judgment originate with patient advocacy you can never go wrong. The patient comes first and foremost. Everything else is a work in progress.

What do you think are the ‘must have’s and ‘must have not’s?

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Sean Dent

Sean Dent is a second-degree nurse who has worked in telemetry, orthopedics, surgical services, oncology and at times as a travel nurse. He is a CCRN certified critical care nurse where he's worked in cardiac, surgical as well as trauma intensive care nursing. After five years practicing as an RN, Sean pursued and attained his Masters of Science in Nursing. Sean currently practices as a Board Certified Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP-BC) in a Shock Trauma urban teaching hospital. He has been in healthcare for almost 20 years. He originally received a bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sport Science where he worked as a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC).
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