5 Things Doctors Can Learn from Nurses
May 21, 2018
Jennifer Larson, contributor
probably heard the phrase “working in silos” or “silo-ization” mentioned in
reference to healthcare, usually as a warning of something to avoid. In the
past, healthcare professionals were educated in separate environments, or
silos, and as a result, they tended to think and act separately in their
research has shown that interprofessional collaboration leads to better patient
outcomes by improving teamwork and communication. That means that doctors and
nurses (and other members of the healthcare team) have a vested interest in
learning to work with each other.
includes listening to each other, and being open to the unique expertise of
Lindeke, PhD, RN, CNP, and Ann M. Sieckert, BAN, wrote in a 2005 article about
nurse-physician collaboration for the Online
Journal of Issues in Nursing, “Appreciation of the unique knowledge of
contributing disciplines and a clear understanding of the unique contributions
of nursing to care can demonstrate that nurses play an important role in
achieving the positive patient outcomes that occur only through collaborative
doctors are fortunate to work with the most highly-educated and well-trained nursing
workforce in the country’s history.
nurses in the hospital now have at least a BSN, and many have an MS or MSN, and
there are some with a doctorate,” said Peggy Flannigan, PhD, associate chair
and associate professor of nursing at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois.
also have a special relationship with patients and training in caregiving that
means they could teach doctors a thing or two—if physicians would take the time
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5 things doctors can learn from nurses:
What patients are
really thinking and feeling—and what they need.
spend more time with patients than anyone else. They’re familiar with the
subtle variations in the patient’s condition and have insight from their time
at the bedside. If you want to know how a patient is really doing, the nurse is
the person to ask first.
How to gain their
are accustomed to nurses playing the role of patient advocate. They’re
comfortable with nurses and they trust them--a lot. In fact, nurses are
perennially ranked as the most trusted profession by the public in the annual
you want to find out more about a patient’s wishes—or get them to follow a plan
of care—keep in mind that they may feel the most comfortable starting their
conversation with a nurse.
How family dynamics
might play a role in a patient’s condition and recovery
care isn’t just about the patient--it also includes the patient’s loved ones.
By virtue of the amount of time that nurses spend with patients, they are
likely to interact more with family members at the bedside. This helps them gain
some insight into the patient, including vital information about what kind of
support system the patient will have once they’re discharged from the hospital,
or have left the clinic or practice.
How to address the hard
often have conversations with patients about sensitive issues. According to Flannigan, physicians sometimes
miss out on the conversations about end-of-life care and other difficult decisions.
Those hard conversations often fall to nurses.
decision-making isn’t covered in most medical school curricula, and
unfortunately, it isn’t covered for most nurses until graduate school, either,
but we figure it out,” she said. Doctors may be able to learn more about having
those hard conversations from the nurses who have figured it out.
How to put patients
everyone on the healthcare team is focused on caring for the patient, all too
often physicians are running ragged, trying to keep up with all the demands on
their time, including administrative tasks. Doctors can look to nurses to
remind them why they’re doing this job to begin with, by watching their nurses
really focus on their patients and engage with them. It might even help doctors
develop stronger bonds with their patients.
physician Steven Celestin, MD, noted that doctors may also want to appreciate
nurses for another benefit: recruitment.
strong, compassionate, and competent nursing team can be the best recruitment
tool for new patients (and staff) that a medical office can possibly have,”
said Celestin, author of Tell It to Me
physicians can learn from nurses, nurses can also learn from physicians. Not
only is their medical training more extensive, but many doctors have long
histories with certain patients and their families, and nurses can learn a
great deal by observing their interactions.
the time to listen and share what you have learned with nurses and other
members of your healthcare team in a collaborative way. Then everyone can
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