WHY do nurses apologize for doing their jobs?

  1. Little bit of a rant about a particular pet peeve of mine here. I was taught years ago in nursing school--don't apologize to the doctor for calling him/her. So many times I hear other nurses, especially new grads, do this, and it makes me just cringe! Who told them they need to apologize for doing their jobs and taking care of their patients? It just brings down the entire profession, in my view. We are not making social calls when we call the doctors, we are notifying them of things that we, in our professional, trained opinion, feel they need to know in order so that they can do their jobs correctly as well and, most importantly, to protect the well being of the patient. It just irks the heck out of me!
  2. Visit rntj profile page

    About rntj

    Joined: Mar '11; Posts: 51; Likes: 171


  3. by   MunoRN
    It's totally appropriate to say "sorry to wake you, I'm calling about .." We're not saying we shouldn't be calling, or that the Doc isn't expected to get called at night, we're just expressing basic human decency. If I'm calling a Doc that left at 2300 and has to be back before 0600 for rounds and then be in the OR all day, then I am sorry to be waking them at 0200, what type of person wouldn't? There is the rare Doc who really doesn't think they should be called at night where I might be careful about admitting any wrongdoing by apologizing, but for the other 99% it's just a basic courtesy between co-workers, plus it gives them a few extra seconds to wake up before I get into why I called.
  4. by   mazy
    I don't usually apologize to drs. However, if I were calling at three o'clock in the morning I would probably apologize for waking them up; and on the rare occasions that I have to call the on-call late for some trivial paperwork/documentation issue that needs to be clarified because of an error on our end, I'll acknowledge that it's a pain that I have to disturb them outside of office hours.

    I'll also add here that just because there are unpleasant things that we are expected to do in the course of our work (i.e. a dr. being tied to a phone and fielding phone calls for 24-48 hours at a stretch or a nurse being required to clean up a flood of stool from a patient being prepped for a colonoscopy) that doesn't mean that we can't be kind to each other and acknowledge the trials of the job in our interactions.

    At any rate, the topic has already been beaten to death in this thread:


    There must be something in the air today, a lot of people on this site feeling out of sorts, irritated, and put upon.
    Last edit by mazy on Feb 2, '12 : Reason: to add
  5. by   rntj
    I respectfully disagree. I am very respectful to the doctors I work with, but it was their choice to become an MD, which they all knew when they got into the field would require being woken up when need for their expertise arose. They get a lot of money and perks and adulation for what they do--there are up sides and downsides to everything, and having to answer phone calls in the middle of the night is one of the well-known downsides. I feel it denigrates our profession to apologize, which indirectly is making the statement that we shouldn't be waking them up and that we are in the wrong. I am not in the habit of apologizing for something I did that is not wrong.
  6. by   llg
    Saying "I'm sorry ..." is not the same as saying you did something wrong. The expression has different meanings in different contexts. "I'm sorry" is more than just an expression of apology. The English language is more complicated than that and some phrases have more than one possible meaning.

    "I'm sorry for having to wake you ..." in the phone call case, expresses regret that something unpleasant is happening -- NOT a statement of apology for wrong-doing. And I DO regret that I have to call someone and wake them up ... or disrupt their office hours, etc. -- even when the phone call is justified.

    It's similar to saying, "I'm so sorry ..." when you hear that someone has died. The "I'm sorry" does NOT mean that you did something wrong to cause the death. It means that the death causes you sadness and/or that you sympathize with the person for their loss. I sympathize with the doctor for the fact that he/she is having to be awakened.

    I'm sorry when I have to awaken someone. I'm sorry when I have to do a treatment that hurts a patient. I'm sorry when I have to give a student a bad grade. etc. etc. etc. I am not guilty of doing any wrong in these cases and I am not apologizing. I am just expressing my sorrow and sympathy for the person who has to endure this pain or hardship. Expressing that sympathy is the right thing to do -- like saying "please" and "thank you." They are not necessary, but they help form strong relationships.
  7. by   Altra
    There are certain conventions of language that comprise good manners, including saying please, thank you, excuse me, and I'm sorry.
  8. by   Aurora77
    Sure getting woken up is part and parcel of the job the MD signed up for, but it's still courteous to apologize for waking them up. It doesn't put me in an inferior position at all, doesn't denigrate my role as a nurse. I AM sorry to wake them up. I wouldn't do it unless it was essential.
  9. by   ProfRN4
    I totally get where the OP is coming from. Courtesy is one thing (esp late at night, or when the doc just left, or just called for another patient). But, to say it every time you call a doc, to me, suggests that we are bothering, or inconveniencing them.
  10. by   tokmom
    I will always continue to say I'm sorry for calling them. I would appreciate it, if it were me.
    Why burn bridges with the docs? Yes, it's in their job description, yada...yada..but why deal with a surly attitude if you don't have to, if a courteous "I'm sorry" makes the conversation a bit more pleasant?
  11. by   caroladybelle
    When I disturb ANYONE, especially in their off hours, I always express regret at disturbing them. It doesn't matter if it is an MD, manager, fellow nurse, clerk, housekeeping staff, etc. If I must interrupt ANYONE in a conversation, meeting, class, report, I express regret at interrupting them. It's called common courtesy. By the same same token, my employer routinely expresses thanks when I have to sleep over for snow emergencies, or go the extra mile for my patients. Yes, it is my job and as a nurse, I get paid for it, and as I went to nursing school, knowing the responsibilities that entails, they don't have to. But it is still good that they do.
  12. by   Bortaz, RN
    There is nothing demeaning or unprofessional about being courteous.
  13. by   lrobinson5
    This is something that is programmed into any polite citizen. I go to the store, can't find an item? "I'm sorry to bother you, but can you help me find ____?"

    This happens about a million times a year, and you get used to it. I don't see it the same way as you do, but that is because I don't see them as apologizing for calling, but feeling sorry for the Doc because sleep is precious.
  14. by   Guttercat
    I called (interrupted) a vascular surgeon today saying, "first and foremost I apologize for being an idiot if it turns out I am unable to find your order in the EMR but...I can't find it."

    As I suspected, he had not yet entered it and in fact had forgotten to.

    No worries.

    My call sounded a lot better than, "Hey jacktard, I can't find your order."

    I like the docs I work with (and I work with multiple docs from different departments/specialties) and find that falling back on the human equation, serves us all well.

    They treat me in kind.