Friday, December 4, 2009
As every doctor eventually learns, don't ever cross the nurse in the hospital. You will be truly sorry if you don't remember this lesson each and every day. I just got back from a painful meeting with my chairman. He said a nurse complained about my behavior a few days ago. He wanted my side of the story.
I told him I vividly remember the details of that encounter. I was in a particularly grouchy mood that day, which I won't go into. I gave the nurse an order which she promptly disregarded. That set off my short fuse that day. I promptly marched up to her and "talked" to her very loudly. Unfortunately I didn't have the sense to do that in private but in front of the whole OR. Well guess what? For her act of insubordination, I get written up and could eventually be investigated by a Well Being Committee and sent to Anger Management class. The nurse? Well she gets to play the victim of the crazy out-of-control doctor. Any complaint about her now will seem petty and vengeful.
My chairman was sympathetic. He's heard this all before. His advice? If I feel I might be losing control, go to a dark closet and scream my head off to myself before doing something that I will come to regret much later. He said, sounding quite Shakespearian, the world is a stage. We have to go out on that stage and perform to the expectations of our audience, whether they be the patients, the nursing staff, other doctors, the janitorial service, our spouse, our children, our friends, etc. We cannot let our guards down. Of course he was right.
The relationship between doctors and nurses is pretty one-sided, and it's not to the advantage of the doctor despite what nurses may think. We've had physicians here fired because of complaints by a single nurse. But nurses are almost impossible to get fired by the complaints of a doctor. I had a severe case of remorse after that angry encounter and I barely made a peep afterwards. But the damage was done. I've been written up, for the first time ever. My reputation has now been carved into stone. The nurses on that ward will always remember me as the anesthesiologist who cannot control his temper and screams at poor innocent nurses.