What Nurses Teach Doctors

Article Categories: Nursing News & Nurse On the Job

Every nurse can appreciate the title of this blog. We have all helped doctors, from medical students to fellows to attending physicians. Sometimes, maybe even often, we have bailed them out! Not every M.D. will thank us, or even admit how we helped.



However, in a recent article, Kay Miller Temple, M.D., wrote of the ways that nurses have helped her become a better physician. First she writes of her moment of enlightenment, as a post-resident in a busy ICU, after two critical patients were admitted together: “I felt helpless. I’d written power pages of orders but, I could do none of them. In that moment, I had the sobering “aha”: Why do we put a patient in the hospital? Not because they need the doctor, but because they need the nurse. I could write the orders, but I could do none of them.”

That’s right, “…because they need the nurse.” Every order needs a nurse to carry it out and to keep the physician updated on the patient’s condition. How nice to have it acknowledged.

What are other behaviors do nurses model for doctors each day?

• We treat patients holistically; they are people, not diagnoses
• We talk to each patient in a way her or she can understand
• We are not afraid to develop bonds with our patients
• We include families in our communications
• We sometimes know patients better than the doctors do
• We keep patients alive so doctors can continue their practices
• We put the patient first, always

Doctors are under tremendous pressure to increase patient volume and comply with many regulations and standards. Even the new ICD-10 codes add to the strain, going from 13,000 codes to 68,000. Coding must be precise to ensure reimbursement. The average new doctor spends eight minutes with a patient. Time is precious, indeed. Nurses understand this and willingly (usually) accept the responsibility and gift of working more closely with patients. Maybe this is why nursing continues to be the “Number One Trusted Profession” in Gallup Polls.

Here’s a final tribute to nurses by Dr. Temple:

“When my dad was dying in the hospital, my mom asked me, ‘How do you know to do all of these things? How do you know how to give him a drink without causing him to choke when he is so weak? How do you know how to move him so he is more comfortable? How did you even come to think about a cool cloth on his forehead?’ I told her I had learned all those things from watching nurses take care of patients.”

That’s right, “…from watching nurses take care of patients.” That’s what we do best.

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