5 Tips for Dealing with Doctor Disagreements in the Workplace

October 29, 2021
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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When you join a team, there is a mutual understanding that you’re all working towards the same goal. That’s why, if you work as a nurse, it can be challenging when there’s a disagreement with a doctor. You both want what is best for your client, yet you can’t seem to find a middle ground and that goal. So, what can you do to help build trust and smooth over these professional relationships?

Disagreements with Doctors

Dealing with challenging coworkers is one thing. But, if there’s a difficulty with a physician, it can impact more than the nurses they work with. That is according to The Joint Commission, which outlines how disruptive doctors can:

  • Encourage medical errors
  • Lead to poor client satisfaction
  • Undermine team effectiveness

5 Ways to Deal With Doctor Disagreements

1. Learn Their Preferences

It’s likely that the physician in question isn’t intentionally stubborn or disruptive. In many situations, a disagreement with a doctor can be explained by a simple difference of opinions. It’s possible that they simply prefer to do things a certain way. This can pertain, for example, to the way they communicate as well as the way they treat their patients. Additionally, if they also happen to have many years of experience, it could just be that they are drawing on those experiences and may not be treating the client by the book.

Learning how these physicians communicate and how they prefer to work with nurses and other clinicians can make your job easier, and help you to provide quality care to your client. The easiest way to discover these preferences is by communicating with the physician directly. Furthermore, if you work with multiple physicians, it can be a good idea to keep notes about how each doctor likes to do things.

2. Review the Policies

What are your policies at work? Are you supposed to update charts several times throughout a shift, or can you update these towards the end? Do policies designate that you have to give a patient certain types of medication? A full knowledge of these policies can help you better understand where a physician is coming from when they focus on something that you might have done or said to their patients.

3. Ask Questions

When it comes to working with a challenging peer, communication is always key. Talk to the doctor about their preferences, their background, and ask for feedback on your performance. Creating a rapport with a physician can help you see their point of view and learn how to work with them in a more productive manner. Furthermore, over time it can make working with this physician far easier and more rewarding.

Also it pays to remember that doctors have human moments too. In some cases, they might be having a difficult time at home, which is then reflected in their persona at work. Taking the time to talk to them, ask questions, and treat them as a human rather than as a potential adversary, can make all the difference.

4. Prepare

Sometimes a doctor’s expectations can impact how they react to the scenarios around them. For example, if it’s their expectation that a nurse should find and notify them of patient changes, they may react poorly if the status of a patient changes, and they are unaware until a solution is put into place. Identifying the expectations of the physician in question and preparing appropriately can often mitigate any issues. Keeping up on your tasks and taking thorough notes can also help to reduce negative incidents, because at the end of the day, nobody on your team wants to feel like they’ve wasted their time.

5. Ask For Help

If you have followed policies, asked for feedback and have thoroughly attempted to communicate, but the problem persists, then the situation may be out of your control. If you feel like you have exhausted all logical avenues, then talk to your manager or HR and ask for their assistance. They may be able to give you additional insight or instructions on how to handle communications with this peer. Remember that your general wellbeing matters too and you can’t care for your patients if you aren’t caring for yourself.

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