Physician Secrets That Nurses Need To Know


By Ronald Hirsch, MD

There is no one prototypical physician. Every physician has their own practice style, their own knowledge base, and their own preferred method of communication. In my role as medical director for case management at my community hospital, I was given 30 minutes during new nursing orientation to provide nurses tips when communicating with doctors.

I put together this list of things that physicians wished hospital nurses knew about them, both good and bad, to help improve the physician/nurse relationship, be it in person or on the telephone. To avoid controversy, remember that this list is not meant to say that every doctor has these beliefs, but at least one of these, and likely more, applies to every physician.

I like to know what is happening with my patient at home and in the office, so write narrative notes.

When you call, I need you to tell me if it is a mountain or a molehill.

I like to sleep at night because I have to go to work the next day after a night call.

When I am on call, I cover four hospitals and 60 patients.

I can’t remember what I had for dinner, so I certainly cannot remember what dose of warfarin I gave a patient the previous day or if the patient has potassium in their IV fluid.

I have no idea who your patient is or what unit you work on.

I get some consultations, so I can sleep at night; call the consultant if it is their area of expertise.

I fear lawyers but write illegibly.

I dislike talking to extended families and count on you to be my spokesperson.

I’d rather give a patient their opioids than confront them.

I don’t need apologies, so if you feel you need to apologize, then you probably didn’t need to call me.

I like to teach, so ask me to explain.

I don’t want my authority questioned but will help you understand.

I like to learn but hate to be taught.

I want my patient to eat meals in a chair.

I hate cookbook medicine, but I can’t remember everything.

I like to practice evidence-based medicine until the evidence differs from what I’m ordering.

When I am at the office, I have five patients waiting to see me.

I need to sit down at the nurse’s station.

I have no idea how the hospital gets paid.

Ronald Hirsch is is a physician.


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