Standing up to the princess physician


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Ever seen a newly arrived doctor get uppity with a bunch of crotchety old nurses?

Neither had I…until just a couple of weeks ago. It started innocently enough, like one of those fairy tales with a beautiful girl and a handsome boy. It ended like one of those fairy tales, too—the kind where the stepmother has to dance in red-hot shoes until she falls down dead.

Dr. Vizzini has—had, I should say—a habit of pimping people. “Pimping” means “nitpicking your subordinates during rounds in order to humiliate them and assert your dominance.” The service I work with most often doesn’t pimp, but this guy did. He’d pimp the nurses during rounds, correct their reports in the most condescending way possible and then swan out after tossing little packets of iocane powder at everybody.

So the nurses got serious. For every patient he followed, we prepared two cheat sheets: one of questions he was likely to ask, and one of his super-special report template. We enlisted the help of physical and occupational therapies and the speech pathologists, along with dietary and psychiatry, and had representatives from each discipline come rounding with us. For the three days he was off doing something doctory somewhere else, we drilled.

And when he came back, he was met with a critical care unit that was ready for him. We reported in the way he liked, without a single symptom or deficit out of order. We knew exactly which branch of which artery was likely to have caused the problem for each and every patient, and what the likely treatment would be. The other disciplines prepared concise, careful reports on each person, and delivered them at bedside rounds with aplomb. He was charmed. He was impressed.

He was red-faced when we all stood up in the nurses’ station when he arrived, and offered to carry his bag for him on rounds. But he got the message.

I will say for Dr. V. that he turned out to have a sense of humor about the whole thing. And I learned something, too: Rather than muttering insulting things under my breath with my back turned, I found it much more entertaining to kill him with kindness and then gently poke fun at his methods. Standing up for yourself when you’re faced with a disrespectful person, even if that person is your superior, doesn’t have to be dreadfully dull or distressing.

Although, honestly, it would’ve been more fun if we could’ve rigged the floors to shoot out jets of flame and huge rats.

Agatha Lellis
Agatha Lellis is a nurse whose coffee is brought to her every morning by a chipmunk. Bluebirds help her to dress, and small woodland creatures sing her to sleep each night. She writes a monthly advice column, "Ask Aunt Agatha," here on Scrubs; you can send her questions to be answered at

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