Most of our daily problems, including common annoyances such as arguments with coworkers, are dismissed as not life or death. However, when nurses, healthcare professionals, and doctors are involved, it can be a matter of life or death. Egos need to be left outside the hospital by the professionals entrusted with the health and safety of the patients they care for, which sometimes means you must argue with doctors.
The problem is that a hospital isn’t really conducive to arguing. And doctors aren’t like lawyers, who argue for a living. They’re used to having everyone accept their opinion as gospel, and can take it as a personal affront when anyone disagrees with them. Unfortunately, doctors are people and people make mistakes, and with nurse practitioners and RNs taking on more and more duties, nurses and doctors butting heads is becoming increasingly common.
Here are four times when it’s OK to argue with your doctor.
1. When the doctor isn’t listening to you or the patient
You often have more contact with patients than doctors do leading up to surgeries or consultations. It’s during those interactions that you often find out relevant information about a patient’s condition that may not be obvious otherwise, especially if you’re a nurse. If you have something to add and the doctor blows you off, it’s probably a good idea to take them aside and let them know that they shouldn’t ignore the information you’re conveying.
2. When the doctor is belittling you
Most doctors are professional, respectful, and courteous. There are some bad apples, though. Doctors who make you sound stupid in front of patients and/or coworkers need to be told that what they’re doing isn’t acceptable. Otherwise your ability to do your job will be compromised.
3. When the patient’s safety is in danger
If the doctor is showing any signs of incompetency — be it poor decision making or even signs of intoxication — it’s a must that you take it up with the doctor involved before he or she does something harmful to the patient. If that doesn’t work, tell your superior immediately.
4. When the doctor isn’t letting you do your job
Depending on your job, you may be asked to assist or even handle some surgical procedures, or even anesthetizing patients. If a doctor comes in and pulls the whole, “I’ll take it from here” routine and tries to keep you from handling your duties, you should say something to him or her. Otherwise, they’re likely to keep pushing you aside.
Next: What You Can Do >>
Now that you know when it’s okay to argue with a doctor, here are four things to keep in mind if an argument with a doctor can’t be avoided. Follow these rules to ensure you do the least amount of damage possible to your reputation and the relationship with the doctor.
1. Think before you speak
If you feel like you need to let the doctor know that he or she did something wrong, or that you disagree on the course of action they’re taking, don’t just blurt out your concerns. Not all doctors do things the exact same way, and no two patients are exactly alike. What looks strange or incorrect to you may actually be the correct treatment for a patient, or the doctor might be using a technique you aren’t familiar with. Thinking for a minute about the doctor’s point of view and whether it has merit before you say anything can save you from countless arguments.
2. Don’t raise your voice
Personality conflicts at work only get worse at higher volumes. Even if the doctor is yelling or belittling you, the best thing to do is always stay on an even keel. A calm, professional demeanor will earn you respect – if not from the doctor you’re arguing with, at least from other coworkers.
3. Be aware of your surroundings
The last thing you want to do is argue with a doctor in front of a patient. Just imagine how you would feel if your life is in the hands of people who are arguing about how to care for you, or just don’t get along. Nobody wants to be under the care of someone who’s emotionally unstable or downright angry. Move the argument to a neutral area, preferably an empty room with a door that closes.
4. Let your supervisor know
Anytime you have a disagreement with a doctor, it’s a good idea to go to your supervisor and let him or her know what happened as soon as possible. That way, if the doctor complains about you, your supervisor will be aware of your side of the story. If the first time they hear about the disagreement is from a complaining doctor, then you’re going to be in the unenviable position of having to explain yourself to your superior.
Nobody strives for conflict with coworkers, but sometimes it can be unavoidable – especially in the high stakes and high stress environment of a hospital. You will need to stand your ground at some point in your dealings with doctors. If you follow these tips and make sure to keep your emotions out of the equation, you will be able to navigate these workplace landmines so you can concentrate on getting your work done and giving your patients the best care possible.