Beat Down Burnout

Doctors and Nurses: Arch Enemies or Best Teammates?

Doctors and nurses, always working together and often at odds with one another. Are they arch enemies or best teammates? We often hear of doctors and nurses marrying one another. However, for years, we’ve also heard of doctors bullying nurses, and nurses bullying doctors. So, best teammates, or arch enemies, sometimes it’s hard to tell. Constantly working together can mean constant friction, or it can be some of the best communication you will ever see. You choose.

Why do we see bullying and friction? We see this because people are not listening for or speaking to their core values. When we learn to listen to a person’s core values, then we have our best communication with them. The problem is that people who go into Nursing have different core values than people who go into Medicine. Therefore, they need to learn one another’s core values. They need to learn to listen for and respect each other’s core values.

People who choose Nursing as a calling tend to value relationships, personal growth, teamwork and significance. They may value relationships over money. They seek out opportunities for personal growth. Teamwork is a priority and they will work hard to maintain harmony within the team. Anyone who disrupts that harmony, or doesn’t contribute to that harmony, is considered a problem. They strive to live a life of significance. In turn, they want to be viewed as significant-as making a significant contribution to society.

People who view Medicine as their calling tend to value logic, expertise, self-mastery, and research. They tend to believe that when emotions go high, logic goes low. They rely more on science and technology than teamwork. This may lead them to come across as curt or unfeeling. They may have once shared the values of those who went into Nursing, as many of us had altruistic motives for becoming physicians. Unfortunately, the process of becoming a doctor changed us and actually ripped many of those nurturing values right out of us.

There is quite a difference in the two sets of core values. One is more emotional, allowing them to develop deep connections with each other, our patients, and patients’ families. The other is more suited to tracking down detailed data and applying it to complex situations. For the two groups to communicate with each other is a learning process that isn’t taught in either Nursing School or Medical School. One is speaking the language of emotions, and the other is speaking the language of cold hard facts. These two very different groups of people will be best served, and best serve their patients, when the learn to speak one another’s language. This will get them the best teamwork, the most efficient communication, and the fewest errors.

Additionally, we all want harmony within the team. We want things to go smoothly from admission to discharge. Data shows this reduces medical errors and improves patient outcomes. For that to happen, we need to speak in such a way that things go smoothly for the entire team. I would ask that our nurses focus on giving information to physicians in a more data-related manner. When speaking to physicians, focus on vital signs and lab results. If there is an incident with a family say, “we had an incident with the family.” Don’t go into a lot of detail until that provider asks.

My advice for physicians is this: get in touch with your emotions. It’s important! Get in touch with your softer side. We all have one. Each of us has four personality types. Learn to be in touch with your emotional side. Learn to be in touch with that side of you that deals with harmony and significance, the altruistic side that brought you into healthcare in the first place; the side of you that cares how patients feel, because our society is also going to care how nurses feel. We all have that. It’s important to keep in touch with that each and every day. Meditate on that on a regular basis. That means several times a week, not once or twice a month. Make that part of your mindfulness and your mindset.

I’m Dr. Nan Nuessle of Beat Down Burnout, and I’m here to help.

Nanette Nuessle