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How Should Nurses Deal With Difficult Physicians

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How to Communicate with a difficult physician?

 First and foremost, let's not make this a doctor vs nurses thing. There are difficult nurses, just like there are difficult physicians. 

 Throughout my bedside nursing career, I've ran into doctors I would 100% trust my life with and others that were a bit sus. Let's take a step back. What is a difficult physician?  I define a difficult physician as a doctor who has the following characteristics:

  • Inconsiderate
  • Apprehension 
  • Rude 
  • Rushing 
  • Ect. 

These are the doctors that don't return calls. Fail to write clear patient orders or fail to write orders at all. The doctors that belittle you and your suggestions. These guys may also always seem to be nervous, and their nervousness tends to rub off on you. 


When dealing with doctors with the above characteristics, understand we cannot treat them the same as if they were regular pedestrians we ran into on the streets somewhere. That is a recipe for a strife-filled working relationship.


 A good nurse will do the following:


Keep Composure

Remember, despite all the Tik Tok videos with dancing nurses, the hospital is a professional setting. When communicating with difficult physicians, do your best to recognize the personality type you're dealing with. Sending message after message and call after call to doctors without a reply can be highly frustrating, especially when you're working in the ICU and have an urgent need that can sometimes mean life or death for your patient. 

            If you continually get upset or angry with the doctor, your judgment can become clouded, ultimately impacting the care you're delivering. Don't get me wrong, I agree it's okay to be frustrated and angry, but don't hold onto that. Take 1 minute to yourself. Do some deep breathing exercises. Come back to the center. Gain your composure and get back after it.

Be Prepared

BE PREPARED. I cannot stress this enough. If you're dealing with a physician that you already know is difficult, the last thing you want to do is not be ready. When contacting the doctor, have all relevant information written out or immediately available. Failing to do so wastes time and will give them legitimate reasoning to come off as rude to you.  

When these Docs do their rounds, again, have a few bullet points you'd like to have addressed. When the physician is in the patient room, in your face, their focus is explicitly on the patient, this is a great time to speak with them before they run off and you can't get a hold of them for the next 8 hours. Try to time up your daily schedule to be in the room when they do rounds. Pro Tip.

Advocate and Document 


Continue to advocate, man. Don't let an A-Hole doctor stand in the way of your primary role as a nurse. As ICU nurses, the one or two patients assigned for the day deserve our full attention. As previously stated, these patients' lives depend on us. As we continue along our careers as nurses, we develop a 6th sense for harmful situations that are on the horizon. Don't ignore that voice. If you need an urgent physician assistant, blow their phone up, notify your charge nurse, or contact another physician. DO NOT LET YOUR PATIENT SUFFER. It goes against the fundamental principles of nursing. 

 Be sure to document actual and attempted communication with the care team. This is so important for legal purposes that are obvious. It's easy to forget to record in the heat of the moment, so this is just a friendly reminder. 


There are crappy people in the world; just because someone is a doctor doesn't exempt them from this reality. Work with them the best you can, and don't let it affect your entire day. I am in no form or fashion telling you to be a push over. Be strong and hold your ground. However, if for some reason, you just can NOT let it affect you, consider transferring to another unit or hospital even. .extreme times call for extreme measures.


Take care of yourself and be great

Until next time Baby Nurse

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