A positive physician-nurse relationship is integral to providing effective health care, says Michael Javid, DO, the hospitalist medical director for Samaritan Health Services in Newport, Oregon.
Dr. Javid spoke with The DO about how physicians can improve their relationships with nurses. Following is an edited Q&A.
What’s the most important step to building a good relationship with your nurses?
Recognize just how important the nursing role is in the treatment of someone in the hospital. Nurses are the people who are always there to address the needs of the patient. Their work is hard. They have to deal with the challenges of difficult personalities. They have to clean up bodily fluids and change bed pans.
What can physicians do on a daily basis to improve their relationship with the nursing staff?
We need to be appreciative. Genuinely. When you are comfortable with expressing appreciation for what another person is doing, people around you will be happier.
In collaborating with nurses, what do most physicians overlook?
They miss out on a really valuable component of developing a treatment plan that includes input from nurses. But you have to actually empower nurses to feel comfortable sharing their opinions. Some nurses have not been given this opportunity before. A nurse has to believe that he or she can trust you with their input. Some physicians will hear a nurse’s ideas and make them feel stupid for sharing them.
When working with nurses, what should physicians avoid?
Correcting a nurse around others. If a doctor dismisses a nurse’s concerns and makes the nurse feel wrong in front of other people, it’s going to start eroding the nurse-physician relationship. We all have pride and we’re all highly trained. Nursing school is not easy. Nurses have a lot of intuition and experience that we must respect.
It’s so important for us to encourage and empower each other. There has to be positive communication. If you cultivate this approach, nurses will save you and they will keep you from making mistakes. They will make your job easier and more enjoyable.
How does the nurse-physician relationship impact patient care?
The patient receives better care when the connection between a nurse and a physician is strong. Patients can tell when a nurse and doctor are in sync and feel comfortable working with each other. The nurse is not afraid to speak up and advocate for the patient. The nurse is the last line of defense before a patient goes downhill. Nurses make sure that patients feel better and physicians supply the necessary resources for nurses to make patients feel better.
A physician’s relationship with other members of the health care team, including phlebotomists, nursing assistants and physician assistants, affects care in similar ways. Physicians are the team leaders, but we should lead by supporting.