Doctors and patients: Always thank your nurses

As I noted earlier, hospitals permit around-the-clock observation of patients. If you don’t need around-the-clock monitoring, you don’t need to be in the hospital.

Who is doing this around-the-clock monitoring? Nurses.

Therefore, whether you are a patient or a physician, one of the best things you can do is get on the good side of the nurses.

If you are a patient, a nurse watches over you and your care. Nurses make sure that you won’t fall. They make sure they give the right dose of the right medication in the right route to the right person at the right time (which can be easier said than done). Nurses provide education about medicines, tests, and health conditions. They make sure you know what day it is, where you are, and who you are. (Also easier said than done.) They monitor your progress and try to ensure that your health only improves. Nurses can also page the doctor for you or your family. They can find out when you are scheduled to go through a procedure. They can find out what you are waiting for. Nurses advocate for you.

Sometimes it may seem like they’re not “doing” anything. They are. They’re keeping an eye on what is happening with your health.

If you are a physician, you must already recognize the value of nurses. (If you are a medical student or resident and have fantasies that, one day, you will be “running the show,” don’t be a fool: There is no way you could do your work in the hospital without the help of nurses.) Nurses serve as our eyes and ears. They tell us information about patients that patients themselves cannot or will not tell us. They do triage with us when we have multiple patients who are not doing well simultaneously. They tell us if someone is starting to look a lot worse … or a lot better.

While it is true that nurses provide around-the-clock observation of patients in hospitals, it is also true that nurses provide around-the-clock monitoring of doctors in hospitals.

Nurses know when doctors typically meet with patients. They know which doctors are more likely to spend time with patients and answer questions. They know which doctors work in collaboration with nurses and which ones treat them like second-class citizens. They know which doctors return pages promptly. Nurses quickly learn how to alter their approaches with various doctors to get work done.

This is yet another reason why, as a patient, you want to get on the good side of nurses. Nurses manage doctors. Skilled nurses will know how to work with different doctors to help you get what you want (e.g., answers to your questions, a meeting with your family, better pain control).

(Patients, you should also know that nurses also manage you. Nurses tell doctors which patients yell at nurses, which family members are berating them, which patients are trying hard to follow recommendations, and which family members left cookies and treats for them.)

Physicians, thank your nurses for helping you do your job better. Positive reinforcement and good manners go a long way. The more you acknowledge the skills and efforts of your nurses, the more they will want to work with you and make your job easier.

Patients, thank your nurses for watching over you. Nurses play an essential role in your care in the hospital. Be kind to them. The more you acknowledge the skills and efforts of your nurses, the more they will want to work with you to get you back to health as soon as possible.

Maria Yang is a psychiatrist who blogs at In White Ink.

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  • Duncan Cross

    Whenever I’m in the hospital, I make a point to write down the names of the nurses who worked with me, and send a card after I get out to thank them for their care.

  • John C. Key MD

    Thanks for the post, Pollyanna…but let’s be realistic here: there are good nurses, bad nurses and average nurses–just like their physician counterparts. I have seen some nurses save the day, I have seen others kill the patient. This is supposed to be the era of the “team concept” in healthcare. Let’s not foolishly elevate one component of the team to a level that is not entirely deserved. In a well functioning system everyone deserves a share of the thanks–not just the nurses.

  • th, rn

    paragraph six: ” Nurses serve as our eyes and ears” – being of service to patients is the role of nurses; being of service to physicians is an old stereotype. Her language is old-fashioned and fosters hierarchies that are dangerous to safe patient care.

  • missiedog1

    It;s all about team work and gratitude. Says this retired Nurse.

  • Karen Freitag Franz

    I have been a nurse for 30 years. I appreciate this article and wish more doctors felt this way. But we have come a long way from when we had to stand when a doctor entered the room.