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Doctors and Nurses: The Fractured Relationship – Reducible or Irreducible?

Submitted by on October 17, 2012 – 10:37 AM 5 Comments

It is a well-known fact that there are often two teams in hospital – the doctors and the nurses. What should be a cohesive relationship is often reduced to a war-like situation where differences in perspective, power, pay and education come into play. Patients don’t see this; patients see a wonderfully supportive, chatty nurse and a helpful and resourceful doctor. Both of these individuals together are assisting them through what may be the most difficult period of their lives so far.

So what’s really going on behind the scenes? Well, to start, both can be very strong minded. Both may have years of experience and wisdom, and both are indispensable to the patient’s welfare. It’s time doctors realized the value of nurses. The way in which they are the main point of contact for the patient, the regular ‘assessors’ and essentially, the ‘glue’ of healthcare service. Nurses harbor a certain empathy that is unique to their profession; a warmness, a friendliness, and an uncompromising comfort.


We as future doctors have so much to learn from our nursing colleagues. Medical students spend a significant amount of time observing nurses, both on the ward and in the clinic environment. Further down our career path we can continue to take advice and learn from them.


However the same must apply to the nursing staff. The medical course is demanding as much as it is gratifying. Doctors are required to be an open, available option to all patients and staff that require their help; a difficult task in the middle of a busy Friday night shift. They are looked upon by healthcare staff and patients alike, to be encyclopedias of knowledge ready to apply their expertise at a moments notice . It is generally the doctors responsibility to determine how the ‘glue’ should be spread.


Some of the top functioning hospitals are those that foster great doctor-nurse relationships. Where hierarchy exists only in terms of responsibility.


What else can we do to improve this? Perhaps social events to break down the hierarchical barriers, or even a joint payday party!


Finally picture this: lets take a step back and imagine a ward simply full of doctors. How would it be? Patients may hold back. They may not complain about that ‘ache’. Information that may be paramount to their survival and care. Doctors would be lost. Ferrying jobs back and forth between one another. Its thoughts like these that can help to build our appreciation for our nurse colleagues. Colleagues who, lets face it, we just simply would not be able to do without.


Naadirah Vali (young student in the UK with a passion for medicine), Usman Adam (Editor, JPMS Medical Blogs)


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  • Anon

    Very interesting & thought provoking. Fab article

  • Covance

    A good coordination between all the health care staff, doctors & nurses would be also very beneficial for the patients.

  • Dr James Platis

    Thanks for the informative writing. Would mind updating some good tips about it. I still wait your next place. ;)

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