February 22, 2012 | | Comments 0
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All I’m asking is for a little respect

It’s no secret that nurses and physicians do not always maintain the friendliest interactions, and occasionally nurse-physician relations can become downright hostile. Poor relationships between nurses and physicians can lead to communication issues, increased errors, and a lower quality of patient care.  Although both parties might feel as though they are behaving cordially, a recent industry survey by HealthLeaders Media revealed a disconnect between nurses and physicians when asked about disrespect and physician abuse. While 42% of nurse leaders felt that disrespect of nurses was common, only 13% of physicians perceived disrespect as a common occurrence.

Communication issues seem to be the major cause for the disparate perceptions of disrespect toward nurses, according to the survey. For example, physicians who are looking to save time and want to hear only key data tend to interrupt or cut off nurses giving a more detailed report. Physicians often don’t realize their actions may be perceived as rude or disrespectful, according to HealthLeaders Media.

But what about physicians who are intentionally disrespectful of nurses? In his blog post “Listening to nurses is key to being a good doctor,” a physician who writes under the pen-name Doctor Grumpy, MD, asserts that “if you come out of medical school with a chip on your shoulder against nurses, you better lose it fast. Because they will make or break your training, and often know more than you do.” He continues on with an example of a fellow physician who ignored a nurse’s concerns about a patient’s heart, telling her rudely that he had already looked at the EKG. The patient, as it turned out, had developed a heart murmur, and listening to the nurse would have addressed the issue sooner and prevented the physician from being reprimanded. Doctor Grumpy demonstrates that an amiable relationship between nurses and physicians is not only possible, but also beneficial to both parties, and to the quality of care provided in an organization.

How can nurse leaders help improve nurse-physician relations? Communication is a major step in the right direction. Remind your nurses to treat physicians with respect, and encourage them to bring up any concerns about physician behavior. If nurses are uncomfortable directly addressing a disrespectful physician, they should share their concerns and perceptions of physician behavior with you. Communicate with the physician that his or her behavior has been perceived as rude or disrespectful, and take the conversation from there. By raising awareness of how actions and words are perceived by others, you can move toward creating a respectful and productive work environment.

We want to hear from you: have you noticed a lack of respect between nurses and physicians in your organization? Have you taken any steps to address these concerns?

Entry Information

Filed Under: nurse-physician communication

About the Author: Katrina Gravel is an editor for the Education division of HCPro.

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