Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Nurse Power

I am always on the lookout for tips and tricks to make my intern year -- next year -- easier and less stressful. I am observing others around me, trying to learn how to deal with commonly-encountered problems (e.g. a patient's middle-of-the-night temperature spike) so that when I face these same problems as an intern, I'll be ready.

I am also learning how to treat (and not treat) nurses.

As the ones that maintain true continuity of patient care, nurses have the power to make doctors' lives very easy, but just as easily can make their lives miserable. I got a rare and behind-the-scenes glimpse into the mindset of a nurse who was exercising this power. I was chatting with one of the nurses on our floor -- a nurse who is very feisty but stubborn -- and she began telling me her views on all the interns. The conversation then turned to one specific intern who this nurse hated. I admit, from my limited interactions with this intern, that she was not entirely pleasant to work with, but I learned from the nurse that the intern was particularly rude to her recently.

In fact, the incident she described was one when the intern was on call and began barking out orders in a condescending manner at one point in the night. After that encounter, and for the rest of the entire night, the nurse made a point of paging the intern with every order that was written in order to "double check" them. Needless to say the intern didn't get much sleep, much to the nurse's amusement.

I haven't taken many overnight calls (only ~10) in my brief medical career, but I quickly learned to appreciate sleep the few moments I did get ... and after this conversation, I definitely don't want a vengeful nurse ruining those few minutes of shut-eye.

So, yes, lesson learned. I will not be rude to you nurses.


foofoo5 said...

Yeah, these are words to live by, "Never, but never piss off a nurse." But while an angry nurse can make your life miserable, the odds are that a nurse will, at some point, save a new resident's ass. As you say, they maintain the continuity of care, and a "What do you think?" inquiry is generally worth it. NeoNurseChic has an interesting observation.

Axis said...

Interesting link. I like when she says "we don't like when they do this" (in response to medical students being the first ones to appear for a consult).

And yeah, nurses have saved my butt already ... back when I was in the ICU.