"I'm not the doctor!"

  1. 98

    As a patient family member (who is also a nurse), I recently encountered an interesting situation. The nurse corrected the assumption she was the doctor by saying "Oh I'm not the doctor, I don't want that much responsibility"! Attitudes such as this one perpetuate the subservient mentality of many nurses today. We MUST start acting like the educated, experienced, capable professionals we are!

    "I'm not the doctor!"

    Recently my husband's grandmother was a patient in the ICU. I am frequently used as the medical translator in the family, this time wasn't any different. I had the opportunity to make a couple of observations I would like to share with you.

    Before I continue, let me tell you a little about myself. I have worked in many areas of the hospital. L&D (as and OB tech), Ortho/Neuron MedSurg, ER, Trauma ICU, CVICU (all as an RN). I recently started graduate school in hopes of gaining more autonomy and advancing my education. I LOVE being a nurse. I love the way it blends science and compassion. I am PROUD to be a nurse. Except for one thing.....

    I have always had a problem with the societal perception of nurses. I love the show Grey's Anatomy (despite its medical inaccuracies), but can't help noticing that there are no nurses in major roles. I see nurses as a whole represented as coffee-fetching secretaries. My family even says to me "I know you're not the doctor, but what do you think about this....?".

    This perception, of course, does not jive with the fact that many nurses have a Bachelor's or Master's Degree in Science, multiple additional certifications, years of experience, and have saved multiple patients from incompetent physicians.

    This week, while observing the nurse caring for my family member, I realized a MAJOR part of the problem with the way nurses are perceived. My confused family member mistakenly called the nurse DOCTOR. The nurse replied...

    "Oh, I'm not the doctor I couldn't handle that much responsibility".

    EXCUSE ME?! Throughout our visit, she repeatedly dodged conversations, referred the family to the doctor with any questions, and generally made me feel ashamed about our profession. I realized that I have encountered that same attitude so many times in my fellow nurses. But WHY?? I once heard a nurse tell a physician who offered to help her clean a patient...

    "Oh I'm sure you have more important things to do! This isn't your job."

    This is just as much the physician's patient as yours, and if the job needs to be done for the good of the patient, why would you assume this meek, butt wiping maid position to the ALMIGHTY DOCTOR??

    Let me start out by saying that I know all nurses are not created equally, but I think this is a mindset bred into many nurses from the beginning of our education. Instead of thinking "I am an educated, experienced caregiver who is more than capable of answering your questions. I shoulder a TON of responsibility every day I come to work." We are taught this...

    "The doctor is GOD. The doctor is KING. You are JUST THE NURSE."

    This thought is reaffirmed every time we allow a colleague's ideas to be dismissed by a rude attending, or when we don't speak up in family conferences, or when we say things like "Oh I'm not the doctor, that's too much responsibility". This inaccurate perception of the "pecking order" is not only offensive, but unsafe. This mindset is what makes you second guess yourself before calling that mean physician to report a critical value, or bring up an important concern. NO MORE!!!

    I'm calling all nurses to WAKE UP!

    Empower yourselves through education and experiences. Realize that you are not the secretary, the butt wiper, or the maid. You are smart, you are important, you are educated! Quit it with the subservient attitude and be the powerful PROFESSIONALS you should be. We are separate professionals, MDs are not your boss, they are your colleagues. Quit demeaning our own profession with your engrained lowly mindsets.

    OK, rant over... feel free to comment, tell me what you think!!!
    Last edit by Joe V on Jan 8, '15
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  2. Poll: What is your mindset regarding the nurse-physician relationship?

    • "I'm not the doctor, I don't want that much responsibility!"

      3.67% 54
    • "Physicians and nurses are colleagues who should engage in respectful communication and exchange of ideas for the good of the patient."

      82.20% 1,210
    • "It is not necessary for nurses and doctors to interact."

      0.27% 4
    • "I don't have a problem with the way nurses are percieved in society"

      2.38% 35
    • "I wish I got more credit for the knowledge I have and the lives I've saved."

      28.53% 420
    1472 Votes / Multiple Choice

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    About sweetdreameRN, BSN

    sweetdreameRN has '5' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'ER, Trauma ICU, CVICU'. From 'Texas'; Joined Jun '13; Posts: 139; Likes: 513.

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    131 Comments

  4. by   Okami_CCRN
    I have heard many nurses that I work with that respond that way and it does not bother me because I agree with them. If I wanted to be a doctor I would have gone to medical school, but I wanted to have somewhat of a social/family life.

    I don't think nurses are putting themselves down by responding in that manner, frankly I do not want to be on call or paged for tylenol at 0200. I rather come in take care of patients and go home.
    Last edit by Okami_CCRN on May 14, '14 : Reason: spelling
  5. by   T-Bird78
    If it's not something I'm 100% sure about I'll always refer back to the MD. They are the ones that write the orders, we are the ones that execute them (the orders, not the pt or doc!).
  6. by   JBudd
    I was getting to DC a pt, when her boyfriend asked a question about what the doc had been in saying; the pt said "don't ask her! she's just the nurse". I stood straight up from the BP cuff I'd been adjusting, looked her in the eye and said "I am a highly educated health professional, not 'Just A Nurse' ". I then turned to him and answered his question (accurately, I might add).
    She looked embarrassed, but thanked me for the answer.

    No, I'm not and don't want to be the MD. I fully respect the vastly longer amount of time they spend studying and the boards they have to pass (specialties). If I don't know an answer, I say so; and I go ask. That doesn't mean I don't understand diagnoses, and consequences, and what patient teaching to do for people.
  7. by   emtb2rn
    My standard reply when addressed as "doctor" is: "i'm not the doctor, i'm your nurse, i work for a living".
  8. by   TU RN
    If every physician order was executed by the nurse without question, some nurse would have given 50mg of IV (that is, not PO) hydralazine to a hypertensive patient and likely killed them or stroked them out because the physician "thought it was 1:1." Or they might even have given 6mg adenoside to a symptomatically bradycardic patient, instead of 1mg atropine since the young doc must have mixed the two "a drugs" up. The MD mistakes we catch are huge, and great harm could result if it wasn't for the "second set of eyes" that are nurses.

    Yes I do believe physicians and nurses should have ongoing professional and respectful conversation for the good of the patient. I also wish I got more credit for the knowledge that I have (although I do acknowledge the greater knowledge of physicians). However, I do not want the responsibility (and with it, accountability) of a physician. At least not as long as I'm being paid or respected as little as I am as a nurse.
  9. by   sweetdreameRN
    Quote from Okami
    I have heard many nurses that I work with that respond that way and it does not bother me because I agree with them. If I wanted to be a doctor I would have gone to medical school, but I wanted to have somewhat of a social/family life.

    I don't think nurses are putting themselves down by responding in that manner, frankly I do not want to be on call or paged for tylenol at 0200. I rather come in take care of patients and go home.
    Nurses have a huge amount of responsibility. Of course we have many reasons we didn't go to medical school, but less responsibility should not be on that list. Even if you think the physician is legally responsible, you have a moral and professional obligation to ensure that every action taken by the physician is in the patient's best interest as the patient's advocate. The "I don't want that much responsibility" response makes nurses look lazy and uneducated. We aren't.
  10. by   sweetdreameRN
    Quote from TU RN
    If every physician order was executed by the nurse without question, some nurse would have given 50mg of IV (that is, not PO) hydralazine to a hypertensive patient and likely killed them or stroked them out because the physician "thought it was 1:1." Or they might even have given 6mg adenoside to a symptomatically bradycardic patient, instead of 1mg atropine since the young doc must have mixed the two "a drugs" up. The MD mistakes we catch are huge, and great harm could result if it wasn't for the "second set of eyes" that are nurses.

    Yes I do believe physicians and nurses should have ongoing professional and respectful conversation for the good of the patient. I also wish I got more credit for the knowledge that I have (although I do acknowledge the greater knowledge of physicians). However, I do not want the responsibility (and with it, accountability) of a physician. At least not as long as I'm being paid or respected as little as I am as a nurse.
    We will never get more respect as nurses if we perpetuate subservient attitudes. Just my humble opinion.
  11. by   TU RN
    Quote from sweetdreameRN
    We will never get more respect as nurses if we perpetuate subservient attitudes. Just my humble opinion.
    A subservient attitude is one thing. Acknowledging the reality of the enhanced training and knowledge of an individual is another thing. With great responsibility comes great accountability. In healthcare, that accountability translates into legal issues, which translates into malpractice insurance costs.

    What I paid for malpractice insurance this year: $80
    What Internal Medicine physicians in Long Island, NY paid for malpractice insurance this year: $37,877

    https://www.excellusbcbs.com/wps/wcm...2-47112e93c9f7
  12. by   mhy12784
    Theres nothing wrong with a nurse saying "im not the doctor"

    The nursing tree is VERY different from the "medicine" tree.

    One of the most prime examples is looking at "nursing diagnosis" vs medical diagnosis. Nothing against nursing, but a great deal of nursing diagnosis are EXTREMELY general and vague. ie "risk for infection" vs a medical diagnosis which generally can be extremely precise and complicated.

    To become a nurse requires 2-4 years of undergrad college, while becoming a doctor youre talking years of med school and so forth.

    Thats not to say anything bad about nurses, or praise doctors. Just theyre extremely different in every way.
  13. by   SeattleJess
    Quote from sweetdreameRN
    Of course we have many reasons we didn't go to medical school, but less responsibility should not be on that list.
    Spot on.

    I've been accepted to nursing school in the fall and I'm going through a bit of a freaking out period, thinking about just how much responsibility nurses have.
  14. by   Penholder
    Quote from SeattleJess
    Spot on.

    I've been accepted to nursing school in the fall and I'm going through a bit of a freaking out period, thinking about just how much responsibility nurses have.
    Right there with ya!
  15. by   chillnurse
    medicine and nursing are both challenging professions. But the amount of knowledge required to practice medicine is much much greater than to practice nursing. I am not saying nursing is easy, but too many nurses have the attitude that they could do everything the doc can. So 3 years of RN school equates to 4 years of med school and 3 years of residency? No, it does not. I worked as a nurse on many different units prior to becoming an np. even being an NP requires much more knowledge than a staff nurse. It is just ocmmon sense. I am sure there are very smart nurses out there and not so smart nps and mds, but overall, the doctor WILL know more. If you refute this you are just plain wrong and have not done both.

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