How to Command Respect

In an article published in 2007 by the Green Bay Press Gazette, attention was brought to a problem that doesn't seen to want to go away. Nurses continue to struggle with their working relationships with physicians and continue to identify physician abuse of nurses as a significant issue in the workplace. Nurses Announcements Archive Article

How to Command Respect

How do nurses respond when they find themselves in the disfavor of a physician? What can nurses do to command the respect of the physicians that they work with? Why is the opinion of physicians of importance?

The key words, here, are "command respect". Societal relationships and mores are an evolutionary process. The basic principles that guide our interactions are too numerous to mention. Without question, if a nurse wants to command respect and be treated like a professional, then he/she must learn to act like a professional. In many cases, this is an uphill climb. Physicians may have a history of poor experiences or have preconceived notions about nurses. Responsibility rests with nurses to sharpen their communication skills.

Nurses Need to Project Confidence:

Nurses should be aware of body language, dress, posture, facial expressions, eye contact, and tone of voice.

Exhibit a Strong Knowledge Base:

Nurses must know their patients; anticipate and study pertinent facts; communicate those facts to the physician; leave the conclusions to the physician; and stuff the urge to describe that they have a "feeling" or are "worried" about a patient. Instead, it is up to the nurse to find and collect facts/data to support a concern.

Develop Assertiveness:

Nurses should use their knowledge-base with confidence and speak to physicians as health care providers on a peer level. If a physician takes exception to a valid point that a nurse is making, the nurse should be prepared to seek clarification. It is important for the nurse to understand why a physician makes a decision that seems to be counter to the diagnosis as understood by the nurse. There may be other times that a nurse needs to object, be assertive, and defend his/her position.

Communicate Verbally and in Writing:

Nurses should be prepared; be brief, and be concise. This is how to "command respect" and is more than earning respect or gaining respect. Respect that is commanded demonstrates the recognition of the voice of authority that marks the professional. It also demonstrates the achievement of obtaining the acceptance of fellow professionals.

The delivery of safe health care rests not only on the competencies of the health care team, but it also rests on the working relationships and on the trust that they have in each other. With this in mind, nurses need to foster and nurture the trust that the physicians place in them and consciously take the necessary steps to maintain their respect.

What if there is a personality clash and a physician refuses to acknowledge the efforts of a nurse who has used these skills to no avail? During the course of a nursing career, it could happen that there will be a standoff between physician and nurse. This is an instance where actions will speak more loudly than words. Maintain objectivity. Remain calm especially if under fire. It is never appropriate to show disrespect in any way. The nurse may need to walk away, shake the dust from his/her sandals and become even more aware of the importance of fostering and nurturing the trust of the other members of the health care team.

I'm an RN who now works as an Executive Director of Medical Staffing Co. I worked in OB, ER, M/S, Supervision - Acute care.

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Specializes in Specializes in L/D, newborn, GYN, LTC, Dialysis.

Well done!!! I like it.

Specializes in Cath Lab/Critical Care.

Good points, gives me some things to consider!

Specializes in OB, ER, M/S, Supervision - Acute care.

I hope that the time spent writing a few practical tips helps to build up the profession of nursing, and helps nurses to be successful in their practices. Your positive feedback is greatly appreciated.

Specializes in OB, ER, M/S, Supervision - Acute care.

Speelling mistake corrected. Thanks !

Specializes in ER, Tele.

Thanks, I needed to have read this. Good points were made.


Great writing. I must say that "a bad feeling" is all I have to go on sometimes. Long before a patient manifest any quantifyable changes like labs I will feel that something is about to go wrong. Sorry but sometimes that is why I got to say.

Specializes in family practice.

Thanks for a great article. I've dealt with a lot of residents who've admitted that it was the nursing staff who guided him/her through their internship. They may not all thank us, but I DO know that many a doctor knows that nurses rule!!!

Specializes in OB, ER, M/S, Supervision - Acute care.

Thank you for your comments!

How many of us have had a patient who candidly informed us that he/she would die "today" despite the fact that there were no visible, identifiable changes in his/her condition. The patient had a "bad feeling" & then did die as predicted.

As you say, sometimes that "bad feeling" is all you have got & you can't ignor it. It is the impetus that directs you do a complete, thorough assessment of the patient.

If you are still concerned be sure that when you report your findings to the physician, you admit that you are unable to pinpoint the cause for your concern. Be prepared to answer questions re. lab values, meds, etc. Have confidence in yourself knowing that you are advocating for your patient & good luck.

Specializes in ICU/CCU/Oncology/CSU/Managed Care/ Case Management.

Very Good Article....I agree that if more nurses where assertive and project the confidence we have we would be far more respected. We need to read more tips like this in our profession...I would also want to add making condescending remarks about a fellow nurse to a physician doesn't help our cause--I have witnessed that. That is not appealing at all.

as long as we are doing are job well, respect from others will follow. Nurses not only learn to treat patients well but also doctors who's part of the healthcare team. thanks

Specializes in Family Practice, Mental Health.

I've been caught with my scrubs down a few times in my younger years. Now I can tell a doc how many hairs my patient has on his head (ok....exaggerating a little...).

It pays to know what is going on with your patient. Understand what they're in the hospital for. Know what the physician plan of care is. Know which doc is handling which body part/function. Do you need to call the pulmonologist or the intensivist? What are their labs? If they're "Not Right", then be able to describe how they "were right" and what changed to make them "Not right".

Just a tad off subject, but........ Once upon a time, I had a post heart cath patient on whom I did a textbook sheath pull. At 11pm, the family said "good night" and went home. At 1am, the patient requested that I bring his family in. "I'm going to die." He said assuredly. I checked EVERYTHING. Nothing to do differently.

I dialed the phone to bring the family in, and sure enough, three hours later, he coded and died. He blew out the entire back side of his heart.

(I had been a nurse for over 13 years at that time...and I still took a bathroom break to have a cry by myself:()

NEVER...NEVER....NEVER let a second thought get in the way of following the patient's wishes when the patient tells you something to the effect of "I aint gonna make it"