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How to improve the doc-nurse relationship

January 2nd, 2013

by Andrea L.

In any work environment, hospitals included, misunderstandings among workers are not uncommon. If these commotions are not managed in a good way, service provision is likely to be compromised.

Teamwork and good working relationships in a hospital is even more important because the health and life of patients are on the line.

While doctors are trained to handle more complex issues related to the health of the patient, nurses are at the heart of assisting the patient directly.

Here are some tips on how to ensure the nurse-doctor relationship remains healthy and productive.


Define the roles of each professional
From medical school and nursing school, both doctors and nurses are trained on their general roles in providing healthcare. However, it is important to further define these roles to fit a specific hospital setup.

When the duties of each worker are clearly defined to include specifics such as when, where and how, there will naturally be fewer conflicts. If the roles are defined early on and clearly, the doctor can be seen as a fellow worker rather than a "boss" who is out to issue unnecessary orders.

Conduct surveys
The only way to know the points of contention between doctors and nurses is to ask. In a hospital environment, you may have to carry out surveys. The answers you get from the survey will act as a guide on what issues need to be addressed urgently so as to avoid any future altercations.

Provide professional conduct education
Sometimes conflicts between nurses and doctors occur because of a lack of information on how to behave at the workplace. By educating these groups of professionals, they will know what kind of behavior is considered acceptable or unacceptable. Ideally, the code of conduct should be taught and shared among all workers. The policy also should describe the penalties that await those who break the rules.

Increase off-hours contact
Most communication in the hospital between doctors and nurses is usually under pressure. Often, they only communicate when they are making life and death decisions. With this said, it's easy to see how orders can be barked and words misinterpreted. This can cause hurt feelings and animosity towards each professional.

If the relationship between two professionals is to be improved, they need to increase contact made outside the hospital walls, where communication is not done under pressure. Companies and other workplaces do this by organizing seminars, parties and team building activities for all workers. Simple "lunch-and-learns" can increase the relationships between co-workers substantially.

Set up liaison offices
There are times when doctor-nurse conflicts will need to be solved by a third party. Therefore, the hospital needs to have a liaison officer that will solve the issue fairly and amicably. Knowing there is a problem-solving mechanism can likely reduce conflicts, especially those which erupt in the presence of the patient. If a complaint is raised, steps to resolve it must be taken so as to instill confidence in the complainant.

Better allocate resources
Most conflicts that occur between doctors and nurses are a reaction to poor resource allocation. This could range from physical number in workers, further education opportunities or even tools and resources used within a given workday. This leaves both nurses and doctors feeling unappreciated and they therefore react by not cooperating. Poor resource allocation can be addressed by doctor and nurse senior position holders.

Above all, both doctors and nurses should stride to build successful working relationships. Not only is the patient's health dependant on their good relationship but also their workplace safety.

Andrea L. is a registered nurse with work experience on a cardiac telemetry unit within the hospital setting, as well as experience in diabetes education and pediatric triage nursing. In her spare time she runs Why Become A Nurse.


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