How to be confident with doctors


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Whenever I have to call a doctor I get simply terrified. Can you help? Does this get easier with experience? —Flustered on the Phone

A: Dear Flustered,
You’ve hit on a challenge for new as well as seasoned nurses. We all want to sound confident and act professionally. Try these tips:

  • Remind yourself that the purpose of your call is to advocate for your patient. The call isn’t about you—it’s about helping someone else, and you’re the person to do it.
  • Collect and have pertinent information at your fingertips—for example, the latest set of vital signs, intake and output, assessment data, current intravenous solutions, recent lab reports, list of medications, allergy information and the patient chart.
  • Be sure you’re contacting the right physician. The orthopedic surgeon won’t want to be called about an abnormal heart rate. That call should be directed to the hospitalist or family doctor.
  • Contact the doctor by his or her preferred method of contact. Many doctors are using cell phones and don’t want to be contacted on their home phone.
  • If you’re asking a unit clerk to initiate the call, be specific with your instructions — for example, “Please call Dr. Colony at his office and say that I would like to speak to him about the blood pressure on Sarah Parrish.”
  • Be available for quick access when the call is returned. Make sure the unit clerk can quickly locate you.
  • Have an order form available and ready to use for phone orders.

Following these tips will help you handle this challenge in a professional and confident manner.

Kathleen D. Pagana
Kathleen D. Pagana, Ph.D., RN, is a keynote speaker and bestselling author. She recently wrote The Nurse’s Etiquette Advantage: How Professional Etiquette Can Advance Your Nursing Career. She is also the coauthor of Mosby’s Diagnostic and Laboratory Reference and Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests. These books have sold more than one million copies and have five language translations. Please visit Kathleen’s Website at

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