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The Consequences of Bad Behavior

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, August 15, 2011
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In our annual industry survey, 78% of both physician leaders and nurse leaders say nurse-physician relations have improved over the past three years. And yet 26% of nurse leaders say that physician abuse or disrespect of nurses at their organization is common. How serious of a concern is this for the industry and what should leaders be doing to address this?

Marcia Donlon RN,BSN,MS
Vice President, Chief Nursing Officer
Holy Family Memorial, Manitowoc, WI

I definitely believe nurse-physician relations are improving. The majority of our physicians are employed and we have done a lot of work with culture shaping, focusing on our values; and respect is one of our core values. Along with that go communication, doing a lot of work together, and getting to see one another more at the same level, which at first was not very easy.

Physicians are asking nurses for their ideas. If a nurse calls regarding a patient condition, the doctor will often ask, "What do you think we should do?" That's like "thank you."

It's getting back to respect and teamwork and knowing that if a physician has a problem and is disruptive, that it won't be tolerated, that they will be called on it. They know they are going to hear about it, and almost immediately. I think we have come a long way, but it is still going to take years. Physicians don't learn a lot of relationship skills in medical schools. They are there to learn how to treat patients and diseases. But now they have learned to respect how people are different and that has been the most exciting thing within the past year.

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