Obviously, doctors and nurses have different roles in the hospital. Our training is different, and so are our responsibilities. It’s also true that patients choose their doctor and only end up with a particular nurse through the luck of the draw. But when a doctor and a nurse disagree over patient care, should the doctor always prevail?
Many of the nurses I know could share their own, dramatic stories of rescuing patients or catching frightening errors by other health care workers, including doctors. In fact, the same day the doctor cornered me at the nursing station, I had caught a potentially risky medication prescribing error by a doctor in training. I took my care question to a clinical pharmacist and the attending physician to insure that my patient was given the right treatment. Nurses don’t have the power to make certain types of care decisions, but they do have the power -– and the responsibility — to go up the ladder until they are satisfied that good decisions are being made.