Rude Physician - Tips for Handling

  1. 0
    Hi - I'm a newer grad (May 09) and would like a little bit of feedback. Today a patient's family member wanted me to contact the patient's doctor re: a proposed surgery. So many physicians on the case I spoke with a more experienced nurse on the unit and asked if I should contact the admitting doc first before surgeon and consulting docs out of courtesy and respect. The family member was very upset with a non-compassionate float nurse from the previous evening and had actually reported her to director of the hospital and I was trying to be a liason between this family (rightfully upset - pt very very ill) and the hospital etc. The experienced nurse honestly thought I should call admitting doc first. When I spoke with doc asking simply "Family would like to talk to a doc" He chewed me out for probably 5 minutes - he hadn't seen patient recently and hadn't done the surgery and did I talk to my charge nurse or unit manager before calling him and...I must be new or a float or I wouldn't have made this call and I obviously didn't take the time to read the chart well and ON and ON". I just said "no sir, yes sir, thank you etc" and politely ended the call. Unfortunately I found out later that this doc has a reputation for said behavior.

    Anyway the question is - how much do we take and simply hold our heads high as nurses - following protocol and professionalism and just hang up and move on and how could I have replied differently perhaps?

    Thank you!

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  2. 14 Comments...

  3. 9
    I don't allow physicians to speak to me in a manner that is unprofessional. I will hang up, turn around and walk away, not acknowledge them, etc. Whatever I have to do to make it known that they are acting in an unacceptable fashion.
    jbp0529, blueheaven, pagandeva2000, and 6 others like this.
  4. 5
    I have had things done like this to me from a particular md that has that g.o.d. complex. he proceded to chew me out on the phone, when I AM NOT the one that even called him. I anwsered his questions, pretty much like smarty pants, so he knew my attitude. He continued to do this, so i stopped him and told him pretty sternly that i was not going to be talked to like this, nor should any female that he talks to, and i wont be treated like this. we are both here for the pt and i dont deserve to be treated like a child. I didnt call you, and i have no problems is there anything else i can do for you? if not, i have your pt's take care of. he apologized and said you are smart and seem to know what you are talking about (of course that last smarty comment because he got a little bit of a beat down and had to say something!) and stated our floor had called him 7 times that day with ***** questions and he was getting mad. i said that had nothing to do wiht me, i just got here, so knock it off. now when i see him, i actually kinda razz him! lol.. a lot of the other nurses will avoid him, or not talk to him, whatever, i purposly go and talk to him, or screw with him. and i KNOW he knows who i am from the phone that day.
    You will learn what you can do with each md to make them step back and knock it off. and you know what, they need it sometimes too. not saying that all mds are needing what this arrogant guy does, but you need to say "excuse me, we are both here for the pt, so i am doing what i can for the patient!" you will get there, it takes time if you havnt been able to do that, you will. they are just doctors, another person to take care of the pt. just because they had more schooling doesnt mean they are better than you. heck yeah they have earned the right of respect, but you know what? SO DID WE!
    Dalzac, neonatal_nurse, Scrubby, and 2 others like this.
  5. 4
    The "Doctor-Nurse Game" is still being played in healthcare facilities across America. Click the link below to read an article that fully describes the "Doctor-Nurse Game." It is enlightening and might open your eyes to a hierarchy that is generations old. My only advice is to hold your head high, confront the rude behavior in a tactful manner, and respectfully let the offender know that you don't appreciate the treatment being bestowed upon you.

    Nurses report that physicians may take them for granted, don’t know or understand what nurses actually do, don’t listen to what nurses have to say about patients, don’t take nurses’ assessments seriously, fail to incorporate nurses’ assessments into care plans, or are difficult to contact. These problems may have less to do with the physicians’ personality characteristics than their lack of knowledge about nursing responsibilities.
  6. 2
    While there is no excuse for any doctor to berate a nurse, I would not have called the attending. The family wanted to talk to the surgeon, so I would have provided them the phone number of the surgeon. If a doctor is in on consult, especially a surgeon, then you address surgical questions towards that surgeon.
    The attending is not the one to answer surgical questions, and the "out of respect" thinking just doesn't make sense to me. I don't run every aspect of a patients care past the attending, unless the consultant is in conflict with what the attending has ordered, which was not the case here, since it was information seeking only.
    The attending called in the surgeon(and other consultants) for their expertise in that area, so surgical questions should have been addressed to him.
    I'm sorry he was rude.
    neonatal_nurse and Divest like this.
  7. 5
    you said yes sir and thank you sir after he chewed you out? he chewed you out because you probably gave off the vibe that you would tolerate that. just stick to your question and ignore anything else he says. it'll earn you respect and you won't be considered a pushover. by the way, if the question was related to the surgery, then the surgeon should have been called instead.

    also, if it happens again, reply back with a stern "Do not speak to me like this." No pleases, no soft whimpy voices, no yes sirs, or any of that crap. If he continues then you say "this conversation is over until you treat me with respect." Then you hang up. NO ONE deserves to be treated like an idiot.

    ON THE OTHER HAND, don't call a doctor for an idiotic reason, then you can't be surprised if he or she does chew you out. one of my nurses paged a doctor at 5 in the morning to reconcile a new admission's home medications - which were two OTC VITAMINS. The physician responded back with "are you f*cking kidding me!?" and then hung up.
    Last edit by JomoNurse on Sep 2, '09
  8. 0
    I would have also given the family the phone number of the surgeon and let them address their concerns. Aside from that however, I am not interested in being "chewed out" for attempting to be a patient advocate. I would have very politely in a low voice (especially if they were shouting, they have to quiet down enough to hear you *winks* ) apologized for troubling him and then explained I needed to leave to take care of the patients asking if he had any orders for me first.
  9. 5
    I'd start off by not giving him such a formal name. "sir". Pfth. There's no reason at all to treat a doctor as though you are some peasant needing his respect. He has to earn your respect just like you have to earn his.
  10. 3
    This is a situation where I probably would have consulted with my charge nurse before acting. If the family's concerns were about the surgery, then it is the surgeon who should have been called.

    However, since the family was so upset that they had reported an "uncompassionate" nurse (which is a perception by the way, not a fact), I would not have touched this hornet's nest with a ten foot pole. This would have been appropriate to field to the Care Coordinator/Case Manager to try and arrange a meeting between the family and the appropriate physician. I probably would have gotten a social work consult as well. Being a patient advocate does not mean that you have to do everything yourself. Sometimes it means just knowing which resources to call upon.

    A good case manager or social worker can step in and smooth things over before things escalate out of control, and they are a valuable resource that you have at your fingertips (I would hope).

    In a situation such as this, I might have said something like "I can't call the physician right this minute, but what I can do is get the ball rolling to get someone to come here and address your concerns. This may not be immediate, but if you give me a contact number, I will have somebody contact you."

    Another option would have been to ask your charge nurse to speak with the family.

    Often just knowing that someone is listening and understands their frustration is far more therapeutic for the family than anything else you can do.

    Now, I'm not saying that the family shouldn't have been able to speak to a doctor; they have that right, and I think that if they had that much concern and that many questions, then it points to a lack of communication from the doctor/s to the family. However, that doesn't mean you have to be the one to personally broker a meeting between physician and family.
  11. 2
    Oh, and as far as rude physicians, I just take it with a grain of salt. I don't take it personally when a patient is rude to me, so why should I take it personally when a doctor is? You will learn which doctors are rude and which doctors are nice, and you'll develop your own way of approaching them. If I have to interact with a physician who is known to be a poo-poo-head, I just get straight to the point, get my orders, thank them politely, and hang up.
    ellakate and CandyGyrl1985 like this.

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