Communicating with Doctors


As a nursing student I feel so intimidated with doctors. How long did it take you to feel comfortable when communicating with doctors? How have you handled conflict with a doctor?


161 Posts

Specializes in med/surg, ER. Has 3 years experience.

As a nursing student, I treat doctors with the same respect I treat everyone with and remember that they, too, put their pants on one leg at a time. The only conflict I have had was being the unlucky one to answer the phone in time to hear a doc yelling about being paged. As for how long it took...I probably have a little more "life experience" than you do and have learned how to deal with corporate CEO's, CFO's and Presidents...doctors are treated the same way I treated them.

Specializes in Telemetry, CCU.

It's something that you don't get a whole lot of practice (if any) in nursing school and it can be very intimidating at first, but you will learn about what doctors look for in a phone call, especially if you work at night. Here are some important pointers:

Keep it simple. Most doctors like you to get to the point about why you are calling. Be prepared to answer questions BEFORE you even make the call. You can anticipate what the doc will ask based on why you are calling. Make sure you have the chart in front of you and look up any pertinent labs or tests. Look at the current orders just to double check that you even have to call ( I have made the mistake of calling for a pain med when one was already ordered but not put on the MAR by pharmacy. Don't waste your time, lol.)

Here is an example of me calling a doc for a pt. with a high temp:

"Hi Dr. Smith, I'm calling about Sam Jones. His temp was 100.6 right now, in addition to me giving him the prn Tylenol, would you like any additional tests, such as blood cultures? Also, the BP was 90/50 which is pretty low for him."

He may ask for the latest labs from earlier in the day or the previous day, has he been febrile recently or at all this admission, has he had any BP meds that could cause him to be that low, is he having any other symptoms, etc.

Be anticipating certain orders. For this pt, I was expecting to pan-culture, he also ordered a bolus of 500 ml of NS, as well as the prn Tylenol.

Knowing what to say takes some practice and you will still get caught off guard by certain docs but that's okay, you don't always know everything. Just try to know what's pertinent to the situation, they don't want a play-by-play of the whole admission (especially if the pt's been there for a month). And speak with confidence, don't be afraid to call them, its our job to be their eyes and ears.

Good luck to you!

*Edit* I based my communication on phone calls because 90% of the time on night shift that's what it is. In person is much easier but follows the same rules!


1,304 Posts

Specializes in psych. rehab nursing, float pool. Has 30 years experience.

Usually, I roll over and say honey you are skating on thin ice now go to lol

Seriously, treat them as you would anyone. They are not God. Have the information at your finger tips of what you need to tell him. If need be. In the beginning of your career write out what you want to say to him /the information you want them to have. That way if you get a case of the nerves you can refer to it.

Vito Andolini

1,451 Posts

It takes time but you'll learn. We all did. Lots of good advice here, nothing to add, just reinforcing to be ready for the call by having the chart with you, labs, VS, MARS, double checked to see that all orders have been transcribed and transcribed properly for about the last 24 to 48 hours.

Good luck. And do remember to be nice, respect the fact that you might be waking the doc up and don't do it unnecessarily. Have your Instructor or Charge Nurse guide you but, ultimately, you must make your own decisions. Those over you can be wrong.

They really do put their pants on one leg at a time, just like you. But they have a lot more clout than you do, so be nice. "I'm so sorry" goes a long way if you do goof up.

As a female, if you are female, you can even sniff a bit and get teary-eyed, if you think it will help with a male doctor. Might not work with a female. Yeah, I know, that's a terribly un-PC thing to say in this day and age but that's my opinion. OK, guys, flame away.


564 Posts

Specializes in ICU, PACU, Cath Lab.

As a female, if you are female, you can even sniff a bit and get teary-eyed, if you think it will help with a male doctor. Might not work with a female. Yeah, I know, that's a terribly un-PC thing to say in this day and age but that's my opinion. OK, guys, flame away.

Definately not a flame...but I would never suggest crying to a doctor that you work with...I mean really is that doc ever going to respect you if you get all weepy calling for some Zofran. I have almost been brought to tears by a doc..since when I get really really mad I cry. But I have never nor will I every cry like that in front of a doc. I finish my job then take my couple minutes away, to get composed and come back to the bedside.

Now if crying works for you and your doc's then I guess whatever floats your boat...


40 Posts

Specializes in medical surgical ward and operating room.

communicating with doctors is hard for me when i was still a student especially in operating room unit because you had an intimate relationship with them.But now that im working it is a step by step process because you really have to deal with their moods,some are so arrogant,experiencing mood swing,lazy and strict. I did all that i can to meet their preferences with due respect to them.In my surprise after 1 year experience in Medical surgical ward i was transfered in operating room unit at first i was so scared but then i faced my fear of getting closer to them..after 3 months i learn to adjust with happy that there is progress wth my relationship with them...maybe you really have to go deeper and know their inner self....

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