Because I worked as a travel nurse, I have dealt with many doctors throughout my career. When you start any assignment as a nurse, you learn quickly about the different doctors you will be working with. For example, this one never calls back right away; this one is very attentive with his patients; this physician rounds early every morning; etc.
I think all nurses have the ability to learn a lot from their situations – the various physicians and what to expect when they were put into new situations, how they react, and how to deal with them. They also have the ability to teach, to share their knowledge.
I’m proud to say I have learned a lot from the doctors I have worked with, and they have, in turn, learned a lot from me.
Important Lessons I’ve Learned from Doctors
1. We all Make Mistakes: It doesn’t matter how many years someone spends in school, or how many initials they have at the end of their name, we are all human and we all make mistakes. At the end of the day, we are all responsible for the actions, orders, advice, and care we provide, and don’t think doctors are immune to this type of accountability. I personally have witnessed doctors who issued apologies to patients and family members for mistakes that were made on their account. Own your mistakes.
2. Question Every Order: This goes along with number one, in the sense that we all are human and we all make mistakes. If I had a dollar for every time I received an incorrect medication order (especially concerning pediatric dosages) I could fly to Europe and back. Not only do you need to stay on the lookout for medication errors, but you also need to be ready to question illegible orders. Remember, if you administer an incorrect dose or medication, even if it’s what the physician prescribed, you are still accountable. Ask questions.
3. Patience is a Virtue: Not every physician you work with will be pleasant, all the time. In fact, some doctors hold notorious reputations for being chronically grumpy and rather difficult to work with. The best thing you can do when dealing with a hard-to-please doctor, or anyone really, is to always be patient. Remain calm. Don’t fight fire with fire, rather keep your cool and take it with a grain of salt. This makes you a better advocate for your patient , and helps you perform your job optimally even under difficult circumstances. Find your patience.
What Doctors have Learned from Me
1. Teamwork Pays Off: One practice I rarely saw nurses do was to round with the doctors. This is a great opportunity as a nurse. When doctors round at the hospital and pay visits to their patients, they share a lot of key information with the patient that is not always captured in their orders or their progress notes (which you should also be reading). As a hospital nurse, I made it a habit to make every possible effort to be in the room when the doctor spoke with my patients. I have had a handful of doctors who have thanked me for making rounds with them and remarked that it was something not routinely done by other nurses, but that it was helpful. Foster a team attitude.
2. Trust Your Nurse’s Instincts: Doctor’s often know the best course of care, but so do nurses. I once had a baby on a pediatric unit in a small hospital that was very sick with difficulty breathing. The baby was only five weeks old, and was admitted for respiratory distress. It took time to convince the doctor to transfer the baby, but I knew it was the right course for quality care. A few weeks later, that doctor approached me and told me he should have trusted my instincts sooner when I made the call about the child’s condition. Stand up for what you believe.
3. How to use Embrace Change: I spent some time helping train hospital staff on how to use electronic order entry, which involves the doctors placing their orders for patients via computer. The implementation was met with a lot of resistance from physicians, especially from the doctors that had been in practice for many years and resented the idea of new technology. Slowly but surely, all the doctors came around and realized the value of entering their own orders, as it helped prevent errors, and that the process was not painful, but actually moved rather quickly once they were accustomed to the process. Take time to learn a new way.
Healthy Doctor-Nurse Relationships are Critical
Providing the best care for patients in the hospital setting takes collaboration among personnel to promote the best possible outcomes. While all team members are important and contribute to the quality of care – the doctor-nurse relationship is especially important as it directly affects your patients’ wellbeing. Look at every situation, even the difficult ones, as opportunities to learn from the doctors you work with and in turn, maybe they can learn something from you as well.