How to Improve Nurse-Physician Relationships

EP 123: How to Improve Nurse-Physician Relationships

It is a fact that sometimes, nurse-physician relationships are strained. In this episode, we will talk about how to strengthen your relationship with your doctor as a nurse.

Developing a dynamic and grounded relationship with your physician will have an enormously positive impact on patient safety, quality of care, and overall job satisfaction.

Nurses have often seen themselves as a secondary provider who takes orders from the medical staff, even outside of healthcare. Strong nurse-physician relationships can help nursing professionals regain their identity.

By working closely with your physician, you will feel more confident about nursing in general. Nurses need to gain more authority and knowledge to achieve mastery-level nursing (Urden et al., 2011).

How to Improve Nurse-Physician Relationships

Take pride in being a nurse

I know nursing is not as high in status as physicians, but you should take pride and be very proud of your nursing career. You are an essential part of the healthcare team. You save lives, promote health and prevent disease through your nursing practice.

 If you are serious about your career, show up on time, pay attention to details, and do your best every shift. Are you aware of your patient’s medical condition? What is the trajectory of the patient’s status?

Take time to learn and read progress notes.

Be confident

As advocates, we want our patients to receive the best care possible, which means being assertive and speaking up for them. If you have concerns about your patient, don’t be afraid to address those with the physician.

Don’t let the physician’s status intimidate you. You are in control of your nursing practice, and you have the right to address any concern you may have about a physician or colleague.

Ask questions if needed

If there is something that you do not understand or cannot remember, ask. If you are unsure of a medication order, clarify it with the physician before giving it to the patient. Always double-check.

Even if you disagree with the physicians’ decision, you’ll notice physicians appreciate you taking the initiative and will respect your opinion more in the future.

Speak up when you notice a problem or a potential error

Be assertive, calm, and, most importantly, speak up. If the physician is trying to order an unneeded test, recommend a better medication or is being too aggressive about treating pain, speak up and suggest a different approach.

It might take some time for the physician to get used to nursing input.

Communicate effectively

Communication with your doctor is vital for a successful partnership. Research has shown that some physicians expressed frustration with unorganized nurses who did not communicate clearly or concisely.

Learn to communicate information clearly and efficiently, without a lot of extraneous detail, especially in emergency situations. Yes, the SBAR works, but doctors like it when you’re concise and direct. What do you need? Be prepared to read the chart when speaking with a physician.

It’s a physician’s pet peeve calling and asking for something without having the background information.

Rounds with the Physician

For this to work, it takes effort from both parties to tango. Regardless of your setting, find a way to stay involved on the floor and in communication with physicians and other coworkers.

Ensure the physician grabs you into the room or comes in during the consultation with the patient. It is important to make sure the physician is made aware of the most recent events and update the plan of care.

Think Like a Team

Everyone on your team, not just the physician, has an important role to play. Think of the nurse-physician relationship as patient care as a collaboration, one in which you are just as responsible for the patient as the physician.

Instead of “your patient,” say “our patient.” This can help new graduate nurses, most younger nurses feel intimidated interacting with older adults.

Show Respect for the Physician’s Time

If you are in a hurry or have things to do, say so when asking a question. If you’re short on time, ask if it is possible to speak over the phone (this shows your nursing professionalism).

Always be respectful and polite with physicians. We want to present nursing as a mature practice that takes nursing seriously and is worthy of respect.

Avoid Negative Behavior

If you want to be respected, you must act worthy of that respect. Avoid nursing behaviors that are frowned upon, such as nursing gossiping, nursing violations, or nursing rudeness.

Avoid nursing drama; don’t take your frustrations out on your physician colleagues. Acting like an oppressed professional will not encourage others to respect the “trusted nurse.”

Organizational Response

The nurse-physician relationship should be strengthened on an individual level and by healthcare organization’s leaders. Organizations should encourage nurses to speak up about potential errors or problems if the culture allows physicians to react however they want.

We advise working for a hospital that will back you up. 

Concluding thoughts

Whether you’re working on a one-to-one relationship or part of a larger team, the first step is to get to know your work colleagues and begin to cultivate strong relationships.

You are an essential part of the healthcare team. You save lives, promote health and prevent disease through your nursing practice. Never forget you are just as important as the physician. 

We can improve our nurse-physician relationships; here’s how we can do that 👇👇


0:00 Introduction of Hosts
0:58 Nurse and Physician relationship
1:53 Take pride in being a nurse
4:19 Be confident
7:52 Communicate effectively
10:41 Round with the physician
12:56 Think like a team
17:34 Avoid negative behavior
20:05 Organizational Response
22:05 Concluding thoughts

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