Nurses have higher work-related stress levels because of their multiple patients, long shifts, and life-and-death situations, among others, which fill their working hours. Of all these challenges, however, dealing with difficult doctors may well be the most challenging for several reasons.
Emphasis must be made that in the healthcare industry, doctors occupy the highest rank in the hierarchy so a God complex is not uncommon among physicians.
The result: Many nurses must deal with the challenges of dealing with difficult doctors who have taken the God complex too far, or who have condescending attitudes, or who are just mean individuals.
Fortunately, you have several ways to effectively deal with difficult doctors without engaging in verbal, much less physical, battles. Keep in mind that your personal reputation and professional career are at stake here so keeping your cool is a must.
Own Responsibility for Your Own Actions
Your reaction to the actions, words, and behaviors of difficult doctors is your responsibility – yours and yours alone even when you have been needlessly needled for far too long. You have the option of reacting in anger or dealing with it in a cool, calm and collected manner. YOU have the choice, always remember that.
Ask about the Motivations for the Bad Behavior
You have to remember that difficult doctors are people with feelings, too. Ask yourself, “What are the possible reasons for the doctor’s bad behavior where you are concerned?” so that you can have a deeper understanding and sympathy of his/her stand. If possible, you can ask the doctor about the reasons for being difficult especially when it appears that you are becoming the target for his frustrations.
Refuse the Inappropriate Treatment
Depending on the unique circumstances, you have several choices in letting difficult doctors that you will not stand by their inappropriate behavior.
- Express your displeasure in a calm manner with emphatic words (e.g., “I don’t appreciate your words and treatment towards me”)
- Let the offending doctor say his/her piece without speaking a word of your own. Ask him whether he/she has finished and then walk away without another word.
- Discuss briefly the reasons for the doctor’s displeasure and address his/her concerns. Be sure that the discussion is in front of at least 2 witnesses, preferably co-workers instead of patients and their families.
You should document the inappropriate behavior, such as its time, date and place as well as the possible reasons and words exchanged. The documentation will be crucial in boosting your claims for workplace harassment, among others. You should ideally report the incidents when these are bordering on harassment especially when your work performance becomes affected by it.
The delivery of effective, efficient and compassionate healthcare services is the common goal of nurses and doctors. But when inappropriate behavior becomes the norm, the patients’ welfare can be sacrificed – and that simply will not do.