I am about to express a wildly under-advertised piece of advice: Our nurses are our most valuable resource. This reality has been true for physicians for many years, but with months of lost time on in-person rotations, it will be true for us more than any other class.
My career in medicine started while working as an ED tech. It was a night shift job to get me through my degree in biomedical engineering, but it was the greatest crash course in medicine I could have ever asked for.
The ED is teeming with extroverts, whose success depends on quick and efficient communication. This is the backbone of quality patient care, and a feature that every manager is trying harder to optimize. It is in this environment where I would run across the occasional rotating physician or medical student, convinced of their divinity among us mere mortals. It only took a handful of eye rolls, shrugs, and off-colored comments of superiority to deter nurses and staff from collaborating with these physicians.
These doctors caused my nursing colleagues and me to remove ourselves from open communication with the physicians, resulting in less than optimal patient care. It was with these doctors that we began to communicate solely through the EMR. This breach of trust would leave potentially life-saving information at the feet of the doctor’s reading comprehension. It began to feel more like the doctor preferred playing Russian roulette with the patient’s life than give fellow health care workers a shred of respect.
On the other hand, the doctors that thrived treated nurses and staff with respect as colleagues. The flow of communication created the best patient care and culture of positivity. This is the kind of doctor I want us all to be.
We are nearing the end of 2020, and we only have a few short months until we are new, under-trained doctors. If this doesn’t scare you, I’m not sure what will. It is important now, more than ever, that we begin to work with our nurses. Start by building a genuine relationship with them. Treat nurses and staff as equals, because most nurses know substantially more than we do right now. Invest in nurses as much as you want them to invest in your patients, and you will find that patient care becomes smoother, your workplace will become happier, and although we have had a lapse in training, you will have a cohort of staff behind your every decision.
The question I leave for you is, would you rather gamble your patient’s health to preserve your ego, or are you willing to humble yourself enough to ask a nurse for some help?
Michael Tanner Libsack is a medical student.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com