Saturday, August 6, 2011

5 Tips for Working with a Difficult Physician

5 Tips for Working with a Difficult Physician

Working with a difficult colleague is tough enough – but when the colleague is a physician, it can be all that much harder. For the most part, doctors are great colleagues, and when doctors and nurses work well as a team, the best of care can result.  But, as much as some doctors are fantastic both personally and professionally, others, well, they can leave a lot to be desired.
First, we need to define what we mean by “difficult.”  If we’re talking about a physician with a rough bedside manner, but who is still doing his or her job and isn’t causing too much uproar in the nursing station or on the floor, I don’t think I’d call that difficult.  If the patients are happy with the care, and you’re getting what you need in terms of orders and support when you need it, I’d probably let that pass.
Second, we need to separate “difficult” from difficult for us as colleagues or difficult with the patients.  When a physician is difficult with the patients, then we have an obligation to step in; we are the patients’ advocates, and we can’t allow less than professional behavior from the physicians towards our patients.  When we have a physician who is difficult to work with, we have to decide how and when to deal with the situation.
5 Tips for working with a difficult physician:

1.  Own your reaction:
  How you react to the physician is your own action. You can choose to react calmly or angrily; you can choose to walk away or confront. Which ever you do choose, it is your choice.

2.  Examine why the actions of the physician are difficult for you:
  Is it because he or she reminds you of something; is he or she being difficult to just you or to the whole floor?

3.  Refuse to accept bad treatment: 
 You can choose to do this in a few different ways:

   •  Say calmly, “I don’t appreciate you speaking to me like that."

   •  Walk away without saying a word.

   •  Walk away while saying, “Please come speak to me when you can speak to me respectfully.”

   •  Stand there and don’t say a word.

4.  Document:  You have to document bad behavior.  If you have a paper trail of the behavior, you can back up your claims if you choose to go on to the next step.

5.  Report the behavior:
  Often, a physician with a bad attitude or who behaves badly gets away with it because he or she is not reported.  When someone does get fed up and does report it, the administration says that they can’t do anything because there haven’t been any previous complaints.
None of the above tips may be easy; there are lot of work dynamics that differ from institution to institution, and even from floor to floor.  But a work environment has to be comfortable for everyone, and if you work with a bully, be it a fellow nurse or a physician, it must be dealt with before it goes too far. 

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