Communicating with Doctors

This week, our nurse blogger looks at what can be an intimidating aspect of nursing

Nurses have to work very closely with doctors. Doctors place orders and prescribe medications, and nurses have to follow through with those orders and administer the medications. If an order is incorrect, nurses are the last line of defense. Everyone makes mistakes, and that includes doctors when they place orders.

All doctors are a little different. Some are very involved with the nurses and include them in decision making, while others feel superior and may resist outside input. It is important to try to form trusting relationships with the physicians so you can provide the best care possible for your patients.
Based on surveys, patients are happier and more satisfied with their care when they see nursing and physicians working closely together and demonstrate an united front. Nurses are at the bedside constantly, whereas many patients only see their doctors for 20 minutes of the day. This can lead to a level of trust between patient and nurse that is enhanced by working hand-in-hand with the doctor.

Trusting relationships take time to develop. The physicians need to know they can trust your nursing assessments and critical thinking. This will take time as a new nurse, because you need to develop your skills and learn what is important to report, what is an emergency, what can wait, and what needs immediate attention. As the doctors work along with you and get to know you, they start to ask your opinion and listen to your suggestions.
Think of this relationship as your favorite restaurant where you always have the same waitress. Eventually, when the waitress suggests an item off the menu, you trust that recommendation. The same is true for the nurse/doctor relationship.

As a new nurse, you cannot doubt yourself. There are always more experienced nurses that can help you brainstorm what to do or help you through a situation. If you are asking the doctors for something and they continually do not respond or constantly do not show you respect, you need to stand your ground and keep pushing. Sometimes doctors just do not want to hear the opinion of a nurse. They may feel it is a personal insult to them if they did something wrong or did not think of the best solution.

No matter where you work as a nurse, you will always be working directly with physicians. Just remember it is important to try to make trusting relationships with them so there is a mutual respect and understanding. Being a new nurse and having to stand up to a doctor can be scary. Remember, it is okay to ask the opinion of another nurse or to just run something by the doctor.

Nurses need to take action as they see problems arise and need to feel like their voice is heard. You are never wrong for questioning an order or asking for a reason so you understand. Remember, you are there for the patient! The patient’s safety and wellbeing is your number-one priority.

What are some instances when you felt like you were backed into a corner? What did you do? Are you intimidated by the doctors at your job or during clinicals? Do you have any tips to share on how you handle difficult situations with doctors? Or do you have any stories or incidents where communicating with the doctor went great? Please bring any questions you have!

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