Male SN mistaken for a doctor

  1. I'm sure this has been asked before, but sure would like some input. To ask my question I must first relate this experience(which is kind of long... sorry)

    I'm a 45 yo male in my first semester of nursing. On the second day of my clinical rotation (nervous as heck) I was doing vitals on clients. I walk into one client's room and introduced myself, and it was apparent that she was somewhat confused. I explained what I was going to do and she replied "It's so nice that a doctor takes interest in me". I explained to her again that I was student nurse.

    Well I was about to take her BP and she starts making comments like "I wish I could die", "If I had a gun I would kill myself". I'm thinking ....."Oh no! Not on my second day!!!" I tried using all of the communication skills that I learn in the theory class, I held her hand and with more questions finally got her distracted from the idea about wanting to kill herself. When I was ready to leave she said "oh thank you doctor".

    The next day I see her sitting in the common area with a CNA, so I stop by to ask how she is feeling and she comments to the CNA "here is the doctor I was telling you about, he is so nice". Both the CNA and I (again) explained to her that I was a student nurse.

    Finally on the third day I see her in the hall and she says "hello doctor, I'm feeling better today". I replied that I was glad she was doing better and then I left it at that.

    Question(well actually 3):

    1) Is this a common misconception that just because a healthcare worker wears a uniform and is male he must be a doctor?

    2) Should have I kept explaining to her that I was a student nurse until she understood?

    3) Is there any legal issues that I should be concerned about?

    If you made it this far "thank you" and any input would be greatly appreciated.
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    About Thendar

    Joined: Oct '02; Posts: 13
    Full-Time Student


  3. by   memphispanda
    I think you did the right thing. I don't know the patient, or the particulars about the patient, but perhaps she was confused--especially if she was talking about suicide, it is possible she was really not processing much of what you were saying. You reiterated to her repeatedly that you were a SN, and really that is all you can do. I don't know specific answers to your questions really...I do know that in that situation I would be hesitant to do any invasive procedures (injections, catheter insertion, etc) because of the patient's failure to understand your title. I think you handled it well!
  4. by   mark_LD_RN
    it happened to me as a student and still does as a nurse. no matter how many times I always make sure i let them know i am not their doctor!
  5. by   renerian
    My husband is a male nurse and I have seen and heard times when people call him DR. He said it happens alot.

  6. by   Mito
    As a senior nursing student (male and 40) I get this one all the time. I won't give you advice on the situation , but I will tell you what I do.

    1. I drive home the point that I am not their doctor, even if I have to keep harping on it.

    2. identify myself as a student nurse as soon as I enter the room.

    3. keep the Jaguar at home,since this really makes them think I'm a Dr. (tongue firmly planted in cheek)

  7. by   Nurse K-Bear
    make sure you document both the confusion and her thoughts on life. Have your professior help you chart it or tell your co assigned nurse. Where I work there is a procedure for suicidal ideations. hope this helps
  8. by   MelH
    1st question, yes, this is very common. Has happened to me a couple of times and Iam a female! 2nd question, no, especially to someone who is disoriented, yes, it's important to identify yourself but as you saw as you kept seeing her in her mind you were a doctor. so it's pointless to keep explaining to her that you are a student nurse...maybe she sees you as her doctor and that might comfort long as you identified yourself you know you did what is right. 3rd question, unless you are going around posing as a doctor or signing "DR. or MD" to your name legally you have nothing to worry about. You have done nothing wrong! You have done what you should have as your role as a student nurse! Sounds like you were there for her and unfortuntely right now nurses (some anyway) don'thave the time to listen to some of their patients because of the overload of patients they have. You were there at the right time for this woman!! You did a great job! Dont sweat it~!
  9. by   sjoe
    Happens all the time. I tell them the first time that I am an RN, but don't feel I have to shove this piece of information down their throats when they clearly have higher priorities of their own to worry about (or when they are as confused as that patient seems to have been).

    (You sure you weren't inadvertently stepping on her foot while taking her BP? Maybe the pressure on her corns was making her wish she were dead.)
  10. by   abrenrn
    As a woman and a nurse, I've never had the experience of being mistaken for an MD. Just one of the stranger thing that happens when people expect one thing, see another.

    As an NP I have had people insist on calling me doctor, doc... I tell them, over and over, that I'm an NP. Most end up saying, I know, but I'm calling you Doc.

    As long as they know and I can't get them to call me anything else, I go with that.

    As to a confused patient - say it, if they don't get it, I think it's too confusing for them if you go on. A sick, confused elderly woman sees male, white, MD. As long as you don' t take on the role, your OK. Just have to be careful, make sure she'll let you help her with that "nursing" stuff like bathing, go to BR, etc. Thinking you a doctor, she won't think to ask. I'd just recommend that you try to anticipate.

    There are advantages to being treated as a doctor - patients tend to be nicer, treat you with more respect. They may give you information they would not give you if they thought you were a nurse. The depressed and suicidal stuff - don't know if she would have brought it up. Also, patient feels special, cared for.

    Disadvantages: for me - I'm not a doctor, want to be a nurse and sometimes wish people could respect that without adding label "doctor." I'd also rather have people feel special and cared for when it's a nurse doing it.

    Just my 2 cents. You're doing great already by asking others how to handle. It's hard to figure on your own.
  11. by   JohnnyGage
    When people confuse me with being a doctor, I simply remind them that I am a nurse. With the confused patients, I clarify once and then let the issue drop. No point in constantly reminding them if they won't remember. As long as I stay within my nursing duties, I'm OK.

    (I realize this thread is probably long dead, but I wanted to put in my two cents.)
  12. by   vaughanmk
    I would be most worried about her threats of suicide. Even if shes not serious about it I would have informed my professor and the nurse you report off to. I sure would have looked into that comment more seriously.
  13. by   tatianamik
    Originally posted by Thendar
    Question(well actually 3):

    1) Is this a common misconception that just because a healthcare worker wears a uniform and is male he must be a doctor?

    2) Should have I kept explaining to her that I was a student nurse until she understood?

    3) Is there any legal issues that I should be concerned about?
    1. I think this is a common misconception among ELDERLY people. They are so used to growing up doctors were males and nurses were females.

    2. If she is confused, the most she will remember is a few minutes or an hour (depends on the level of confusion that day). You did right by trying to reorient her every time you first see her. But I don't think she would have gotten to the point where she understood.

    3. If you keep explaining to people that you are a NURSE when you first meet them, then there should be no legal issues that I can forsee.

    The younger ones (peds) are much better. They almost see more female doctors than male doctors. Along with male nurses. I think they'll see the professions without the all of the gender biases that previous generations have worked with.