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Monday, August 29, 2005

The importance of being earnest...

...with the nursing staff.

There is a longstanding rift between doctors and nurses. The hierachy of medicine is such that doctors and nurses work together, with the nurses ever the subordinates, carrying out the doctors orders and subject to the menial (and oftentimes unpleasant) task of care-giving.

I often find that the nurses are more experienced than myself, and I value their opinions and observations. After all, some nurses have been working at their job longer than I've been alive - and even the younger, more inexperienced ones would have had more contact with the patient than I.

Never underestimate the observations of a nurse. They really get to know their patients in very great detail - after all, they are involved in much of the intimate details of a patient's life (it's hard not to get to know somebody if you have to bathe and dress them everyday). I try always to take their opinions into account - and when they do raise false alarms (eg. "Doctor, the patient is lethargic!" because the patient is sleeping), I take them with me to see the patient so that we can both agree that there is nothing to be worried about.

Occasionally, there can be the senior nurse who tries to throw her weight around, testing the boundaries of her control over junior doctors such as myself. When this happens, I have to remind myself that a poor doctor-nurse relationship can only make things bad for the patient - so I have to be firm yet sensitive. It doesn't always work, and I do get yelled at by irate nurses when I refuse to do their bidding, but I am proud to report that I have never lost my temper...and sometimes I have even been able to win over their respect.

It is really hard sometimes to maintain professional courtesy and not yell. Especially if something has been done incorrectly or missed out by a nurse, which has led to substandard patient care.

Sadly enough, I have seen some doctors being excruciatingly rude to the nurses. I cringe when I see it happen. Nurses have the power to make a doctor's working life very, very miserable. They talk to each other during their breaks and gossip about doctors and share stories. A doctor who has been needlessly mean to a nurse can develop a poor reputation throughout the hospital in no time...and suddenly, all the hospital staff become very unhelpful.

I like being nice to my nurses. It's rewarding. I like it when they actually go out of their way to help - it makes my job so much easier, more pleasant and I can be more efficient.

Plus, it's nice to hear them say 'Oh, doctor, you look tired. Why don't you sit down? Can I make you a cup of tea? Would you like a biscuit?'.


Blogger Tym said...

A sensible approach. You are wise in your youth. :)

My mom was a nurse. She used to tell all sorts of stories about arrogant doctors vs. the nice ones, the ones they helped and the ones they sabo'ed. Hahaha.

8:51 pm  
Blogger tscd said...

tym: Sabo-ed?! Sabo-ed?! Yikes, that's pretty scary. I wouldn't like to make your mum cross.

11:46 am  

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