Doctors Are From Mars, Nurses Are From — Oh, To Hell With It

News flash! From Fierce Medical News, here’s the shocking headline:

Docs, nurses miscommunicate on respect, job role

When you guys pick yourselves off the floor from laughing, here’s the money quote:

In particular, the survey found differing views of how doctors treat nurses. According to 42 percent of nurse leaders, physician abuse or disrespect of nurses was common, whereas only 13 percent of physician leaders said it was common. Fifty-eight percent of nurse leaders considered disrespect for nurses uncommon, while 88 percent of physician leaders said it was uncommon at their healthcare organizations.

“I do believe nurses and physicians are on two different pages when it comes to communication,” Pam Kadlick, vice president of patient care and chief nursing officer for Ohio’s Mercy St. Anne Hospital, said in a HealthLeaders Media article. “Nurses have a tendency to give a very detailed report, more than what a physician may want to hear; hence, the physician may interrupt, seem to be abrupt, even rude at times.”

But most physicians don’t consider such behavior to be disrespectful, she noted.

You’re telling me abuse of nurses is all about physicians being insensitive, maybe, and nurses having too many hurt fee-fees? Really? And nurses are supposed to be surprised that physicians “don’t consider such behavior to be disrespectful?”

Why does this sound like a ’80s sitcom?

Why does this sound like this report is trying to validate abusive physician behaviour?

You can only shake your head. And you just know, somewhere, in a darkened office maybe, in an obscure corner of a mega health care corporation, a manager is reading this report and exclaiming, “I knew nurses were to blame!”

I will very happily concede abusive behaviour of all kinds has declined markedly in my own time as a nurse, though I will say I work in an institution that enforces a zero tolerance policy against abusive behaviour. Moreover, the physicians I work with, shoulder to shoulder, are lovely and professional, and there is a true sense of collaboration. This makes for excellent patient care.

However, by no means is this true everywhere. So let’s not pretend the brow-beating, the mocking, the chart-throwing, the patronizing  — to be blunt, treating nurses like you wouldn’t treat your mother, daughter, wife, bank clerk, Wal-Mart greeter, housekeeper, or dog — still doesn’t go on. Denial will never fix the problem, either from physicians — or nurses.

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  1. #1 by Beth Boynton, RN, MS on Sunday 19 February 2012 - 1422

    Thanks for this! You are so right on about denial!! Sometimes, I hear nurse leaders talk about how strong nurses must be, and you know, I think….give me a break. I’m ok with being strong, but I am also sensitive and human. I want to be treated respectfully by all stakeholders and DESERVE to be!

    I’m sure there are positive workplaces out there and I commend their work. But this doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot more work to do so that EVERY nurse and EVERY patient is safer.

  2. #2 by midwest woman on Sunday 19 February 2012 - 1441

    First comment…Bwahahahahahah!
    Ok now that I’ve composed myself what did you expect a CNO to say? I know who they answer to and it isn’t us.
    Nurses are trained to be anal retentive and then in the real world get the smackdown when paying attention to the details.
    What a Catch 22.
    Having said that, I will add I had good relationships with most of the docs but it was sort of a learning curve where they learned my judgment was sound and would listen to a concern.
    Am really enjoying your blog. So well written!

  3. #3 by The Nerdy Nurse on Sunday 19 February 2012 - 1939

    You are VERY privileged to work at a facility with a zero tolerance policy against abusive behavior. This isn’t the case for many of us.

    I find it HILARIOUS that Doc’s find it’s OK to interrupt your SBAR report “most physicians don’t consider such behavior to be disrespectful”. Lets turn the tables and see how disrespected they feel if we interrupt their orders.

  4. #4 by red cross cna training class on Sunday 19 February 2012 - 1943

    Interesting article on doctors and nurses

  5. #5 by Jennifer Olin, RN on Monday 20 February 2012 - 0050

    Not only is there the difference between how doctors and nurses speak to each other and how we perceive what’s been said to us but let’s also address the differences in how physicians speak to male nurses vs female nurses. There is no doubt in my mind or my ears that physicians (both male and female) are generally more respectful to male nurses than to female. My friends who are male nurses even acknowledge it. One said to me, “oh no…no doctor would ever talk to me the way he talks to you and get away with it.” What’s that about?

    I have a good to great relationship with most of the surgeons I work with and still they will speak to me in tones I wouldn’t use with my dog. I think we all need some etiquette classes.

    • #6 by torontoemerg on Monday 20 February 2012 - 2316

      Thus is it ever so. When I worked in Sticksville General, way up north of Toronto, the EMS guys (and they were all guys), would bring in the patients, and we would carefully assess the patients as per the usual — and when the docs came in, they would invariably go speak to the paramedics, ignoring the nurses completely. Irritated the crap out of me, and one of the reasons I work Toronto now.

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