Addressing the Disrespect Disconnect

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , February 13, 2012
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This article appears in the February 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Smooth working relationships among nurses and physicians are seen as vital to increasing value in healthcare delivery, but there is a vast divide in the perception of how doctors treat nurses, the HealthLeaders Media Industry Survey 2012 reveals.

When asked how pervasive physician abuse or disrespect of nurses is, there was a clear disconnect between the two. While 42% of nurse leaders said it was common, only 13% of physician leaders said it was common. Likewise, 58% of nurse leaders said it was uncommon, while 88% of physician leaders said it was uncommon.

Pam Kadlick, RN, BS, MBA, MSN, vice president of patient care and chief nursing officer for 112-staffed-bed Mercy St. Anne Hospital in Toledo, OH, says she is surprised at what she cited as a high level of disrespect reported by the nurse leaders.

The findings illustrate fundamental "ineffective communication or having different expectations" among the two groups, with physicians sometimes having a misperception of nurses' roles, and nurses in conflict with physicians over the "misunderstanding of what needs to be done at a given time," Kadlick says.  She acknowledges that such communication problems could manifest themselves when a physician "cuts off" a nurse's suggestion or comment.

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3 comments on "Addressing the Disrespect Disconnect"

CENotredame (2/15/2012 at 2:45 PM)
Actually, in my > 35 year career as a nurse I have experienced this first hand and have been verbally abused on a daily basis in one job as an educater because the physician did not want me there. Also, I have had a resident speak very disrespectfully to me, in a very non emergent sistuation, as though entitled to do so, although I was at the time old enough to be her mother. I have witnessed physician disrespect towards nurses, and sometimes nusres being unkind and disespectful towards residents, throughout my career so commonly, that the numbers sied by nurse leaders seem rediulously low. My feelings about this have been more affected by my experiences as a patient with significant medical problems as I have seen the limitations that physicians and the medical model bring to the table Nonetheless I have had very rwarding working relationships with physicians as well and found that the team approach really benefitted our patients

ed (2/15/2012 at 2:44 AM)
Quite an interesting article in that the article only appears to address the level of disrespect the nurses may feel. However, I think it is safe to say that the contrary also occurs and I wonder how many physicians feel they are disrespected by nurses. Unfortunately, as far as I know the treatment of physicians, especially in training, by nurses are rarely examined. When it comes to the perception of blame, I certainly do feel that physicians have played a part as they do make the ultimate decisions regarding patient care. I am not sure what to make of the perception that nurses do not share some of the blame for our current health care system, as they appear to be an integral part. Ultimately, improved communication will likely lead to improved healthcare delivery, but I am not sure if performing a one-sided, possibly biased survey is contributing to the solution.

Sue Wintz (2/14/2012 at 9:15 AM)
Thank you for bringing this important topic out into the open. As a board certified professional chaplain, I have worked closely with both physicians and nurses and agree that there is a 'disconnect' that impedes communication. As the article pointed out, it's not only the MDs and RNs that contribute to this, but many other influences, including the organizational culture. Coordinated care and a multidisciplinary approach are the key, however the barriers often set up within the culture can impede this and must be addressed. Professional chaplains are often the overlooked resource by many organizations. Our expertise is communication, not only in assessing patient/family beliefs and values to incorporate them into the plan of care (which increases satisfaction), but also within the team. Often chaplains facilitate communication between members of the team, including physicians and nurses. To increase the overall success of communication in healthcare delivery, organizations would do well to bring all members of the team to the table to talk openly about solutions. This means not only the organizational leaders. The voices of those who do the bedside care - the physicians, nurses, professional chaplains and other disciplines, need to be heard and respected. Together solutions to this issue can be addressed.




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