How to Really Work with Doctors.

As I was reading though blogs today I can across an article titled Working with Docs written by a fairly new nurse. It was written like there was a strict protocol needed in order for a nurse to call a doctor, how doctors are on a different level – untouchable, and made it sound like unless your patient is coding don’t bother calling. This is NOT what new nurses need to hear. No doubt she did make some very good points about what you need to do before calling the doctor such as having the patient’s chart, recent vitals, labs, and med list available before you call and knowing if anyone else needs to talk to the doctor before hanging up. She also touches on how in the beginning it is so nerve-wracking to call the doctor- which is totally true. In reality a good portion of what was written was relevant and pertinent information. But one paragraph was not. It was almost written in a degrading meaner towards nurses. Here it is:
“Doctors are very, very busy.  Do you think you’re busy as a nurse?  So are docs, but in a different way.  They work on less sleep with much more responsibility.  We get to clock out and completely forget about the patient’s we just took care of.  They are on call overnight and still expected to come in the next morning, even if they were in surgery for hours or had to come in for a consult overnight, then come in the next day to round on all of their patients. Don’t immediately page them with every single question.  Don’t you hate 10 calls/questions when you’re trying to assess, document, and medicate your patient?  It’s the same thing with doctors.”

I would just like to point out some things. Nurses are very, very busy. Yes, I am a nurse, and I am busy when I am working. Yes, doctor are busy as well, but I don’t see how it’s so different. And they work on less sleep? Why would a doctor automatically work on less sleep? Especially when they aren’t working shifts. Plus it’s not like the same doctor is on call night after night. And seriously, how often are they called in? Obviously this will very by geographical area & type of hospital. And I would say level of responsibility is pretty even. Since nurses do almost EVERYTHING for the patient they are responsible for doing it and making sure it’s correct. Just because a doctor ordered something doesn’t mean it’s correct. Even though the doctor order something YOU as the nurse are just as responsible if something was incorrect and still given/completed. Because that’s part of the job, you’re supposed to catch it. But the line that really bugged me the most out of this whole post was “We get to clock out and completely forget about the patient’s we just took care of”. What what WHAT!? I don’t think most nurses are sitting there watching the clock to run out the door & we don’t just forget our patients. We bring our work and feelings home with us. Doctors see/deal with way more patients than nurses do, so let’s be real they aren’t sitting at home thinking about some patient. And they aren’t patiently sitting at home in case they are called in, they’re off do their own thing. Nurses are on call as well, don’t forget that. Especially surgery nurses, as doctors and surgery was pointed out in the original post. AND TO ALL THE NEW NURSES READING THIS: IF YOU ARE QUESTIONING SOMETHING OR HAVE A GUT FEELING – CALL THE DOCTOR. Don’t let people with this same opinion that doctors are untouchable scare you. It’s the difference between life & death. Yes, don’t call the doctor for something stupid that can wait, but if you’re worried about something do it. Doctors are just people and they are no better than nurses. Once you realize this you will be set. And yes, getting 10 phones call while you are busy with patients is annoying. But for real, we as nurse put on out big girl/boy panties and deal with it. Plus, you’re not generally calling the doctor 10 times in a short period of time anyways. Doctors will call or talk to nurses for their opinion, because they are the ones dealing with the patient on a daily basis. And you are aloud to question medications and order, but do so with caution. Don’t question an order because you want to play doctor, but do question an order if say the patient is in renal failure and the med shouldn’t be given to anyone with kidney problems. We have all helped each other out. Doctors have said that nurses saved their ass nursing residency and into their first years of practice. Remember your first days on the job and how unprepared you really were? Well doctors are the same.

I guess my main problem with this was that it makes it sound like you should never call a doctor. That’s not the case, and new nurses need to know that it’s OK to do so. Doctors and nurses are on the SAME team, we all work together. Before calling the doctor I always consult with my coworkers to make sure we have brainstormed everything, but then I call if necessary – no big deal. But you do need to have your information ready and know what you need to say/ask. Most doctors will sound like you are bugging them when you call, but whatever don’t let it bother you. Just be respectful and get to the point. Being on call and receiving phone calls IS part of a doctor’s job and they knew that going into med school. Plus, whatever they’ll get over it.

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One thought on “How to Really Work with Doctors.

  1. “Nurses get to clock out and forget about the patient”???!! I react like you did.. like WHAT? If that ever happened…
    I’m so glad to see someone who is in another country write that “doctors are just people” because when I worked in Ireland, doctors were like God. But I work in another culture and here doctors are another part of the care team, and we’re all important in the team. Of course we should call the doctor if we need him/her!!!

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