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Nurse Relationships
4 tips for training others to respect you.

Suzanne Gordon, author of Nursing Against the Odds (Cornell UP, 2006), says new nurses need to train others for respect. Here are four tips to do just that:

1. Introduce yourself in a professional manner.
When you introduce yourself to doctors, don’t say, “Hi, I’m Susie.” If you want to be respected as a nurse, you shouldn’t be “Susie in the angora sweater” or “Cheerful, smiley Susie.” You should have a first and last name. Say, “Hello, I’m Suzanne Smith. I’m a registered nurse. I’m taking care of Ms. Jones today.”

2. Consider what you wear to work.
If you look silly, doctors as well as patients are going to view you as trivial. Think about doctors—they wear white coats over professional attire: ties, dresses, neat slacks.

Obviously nurses have to wear different attire, but you should wear neat, single color scrubs; get rid of the smiley, flowery scrubs and the angel pins. Looking like a little girl does not reassure patients. Nor does it demonstrate to doctors that you are a professional and want to be treated like one.

Nurses need to look confident and competent.

3. Learn SBAR.
This tool, developed to help colleagues talk to each other on a nuclear submarine, stands for “Situation Background Assessment Recommendation.” It’s important for nurses to use this model in order to assess a situation and professionally relay their recommendations to superiors.

A nurse may call a doctor and say, “Hi, this is 4 South. I need an order for something.”

If that’s all you tell him or her, the doctor may blow you off: Who are you? What’s going on here?

You need to provide the information you and the doctor needs to make a decision. The SBAR model simply says that your call to the doctor should include facts about the four categories—the reality of the situation, any relevant background information, your assessment, and then your recommendation, if appropriate.

4. Act like you deserve respect.
If doctors are rude, say, “This tone of voice doesn’t create an environment where I can deliver quality patient care.” If you allow doctors to be rude to you, they’ll continue to do it.

Many older or more experienced nurses will socialize younger nurses to tip-toe around certain doctors. When nurses start working in a new unit, veteran nurses may say, “You have to be careful with Dr. Smith. You can’t talk to him in the morning—he’ll bite your head off.”

But that’s ridiculous—your patient’s needs do not coincide with his needs. If you have a problem with a doctor, be assertive—initiate a conversation with the doctor. Some nurses try to “get back” at the doctor by doing things like paging him every five minutes—this is nonsense and simply reinforces all the stereo-types in the healthcare profession.

Suzanne Gordon is an award-winning journalist and author. She’s the author of five books including her newest book on the nursing crisis, Nursing Against the Odds: How Health Care Cost Cutting, Media Stereotypes, and Medical Hubris Undermine Nurses and Patient Care.

Read more Nurse Relationships articles

18 Responses to “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”

  1. Sharon LaCroix Says:

    Being a RN for many years I feel this article hits it right on the nose. I always wear a name tag with my full name, and title, RN. I never hear a doctor introduce himself with first name only. Even my workplace handed me a badge, with my first name only. I sent it back! I also learned from this article to treat my co-workers to this same resept. I now introduce new nurses I am working with, to Doctors and other staff as respectfull as possible. I give their first and last name with their title. They deserve it!

  2. New Nurse Says:

    Very helpful article.

  3. Amy Says:

    That’s cool, but I had a patient’s family member look me up on myspace. He has a hx of closed head injury and is, “Quick to get angry.”… enough that we were questioning whether the home environment was safe for the pt. Seriously creeped me out. I took my last name off my badge after that.

  4. KaseyW Says:

    I recently got chewed out a bit by a doctor who wanted to know “what the h-ll I was bothering him about such and such for?” I told them that while I knew this was an inconvenient time to be calling him, that it was my duty as a patient advocate to look out for the needs of my patient first and risk incuring the wrath of an inconvenienced doctor to meet their needs. The doctor quieted down almost immediately and gave me the orders I needed to help the patient out.

  5. Stephanievand Says:

    Love what KaseyW said!! Ha.

  6. Mr Ian Says:

    Our doctors go by their title and first name eg Dr John, Dr Matthew
    I scurried my doctors out of the unit to day at 4:30 and sent them home saying they’d worked hard enough and deserved a rest… “but be fresh tomorrow, we’ve more work for you”.
    The odd doctor with the personality issue – doesn’t bother us twice.
    I like where I work 🙂

  7. Mill Says:

    I never tell my last name, and I will never wear it on my badge. That’s a choice I made as a student, as one of my psych-patients tried to call my school to get me thrown out. I had another patient that tried finding me in the phonebook so he could send me letters and x-rated pictures I really didn’t want. No last names. Ever.

    Title and first name is enough; And if anyone disrespects me they WILL hear it, but I will not expose myself to harm and illdoing by my unstable patients.

    And remember; If you treat the doctor well, he’ll treat you well, and the respect-issue will not be a problem. Of coure, we all meet the odd dic*head once in a while, but a smile and a quick comment on the respect we deserve for the work we do will most often do the trick.

    Good luck to us all 😀

  8. Mr Ian Says:

    Somewhat off topic, but following Mill’s theme, I have come across some of those issues regarding use of last name and those staff not wanting to.
    Personally, it’s never bothered me and I work in mental health.
    And in my several years practise, no one has wanted to send me x-rated pics – what am I doing wrong?

  9. Kayla Says:

    This is very helpful. I have not had the issue with doctors yet, but as a CNA there is a nurse who constantly barks at me in a demeaning tone and tries to make me feel incompetent. I’m still a little unsure on how to deal with it without making it worse. Any suggestions?

    I too covered up my last name on my badge. Just tonight I had a patient’s family member ask me my name and got a rather scary tone and was insisting on my last name. I just told her that I never give it out.

  10. Mill Says:

    Mr Ian:

    I have no idea why, but I have a tendency to attract the strangest kinds of people, all the drugaddicts, psyko’s and outcasts obviously find me very interresting, and that’s why I’m very carefull with who I tell my last name to. And this is not only at work, I also (obviously) draw them to me in ‘reallife’ too.

    Maybe it’s me, maybe I look kind and caring because I allways have a smile on my face, or maybe they just notice my female attributes? But I don’t allways feel safe around my patients, and I don’t want to risk my own health and wellbeing just because people thinks I should show my last name to the world. Some people are unstable, and we as nurses have to deal with them accordingly.

    This is a world where sex and attraction is a factor we have to acknowledge, and as a woman I have to accept that some people are unable to keep they’s hands and eyes and meanings (and pictures) to them selves.

    I’m sorry if this is off topic.

  11. Melissa Says:

    I think you’re making a valid point. It does happen on occasion where patients will ask you for your full name (my badge shows my first name, last initial) I’ve even had patients ask me for my phone number/email address. It’s just something we need to be firm and professional about and let them know that we don’t give that information out.

  12. Carla Says:

    What about the Lewis Blackman law where the pt has the right to know the full name and credentials of the person taking care of them?? Is this just a South Carolina law? I thought it was a federal law. We have our first name printed in larger letters then our last on our badges with our credentials big like our first names. I hate having my last name on my badge for everyone to see. There are very dangerous people out there who seek revenge because you don’t/can’t give them what they want when they want or the crazies who don’t understand why you couldn’t save their family member…etc…its a crazy world we live in…

  13. Niki Says:

    Carla, I was curious about your question as I had never heard about being required to have your last name on your badge. In fact in nursing school, our professors recommended we cover our last name on our badges. So I googled the Lewis Blackman law and it is a South Carolina law, not a federal law.

  14. Lesley Says:

    Carla, it is also the law in North Carolina. Our ER nurses are allowed to not have their last names on their badges but when some of the nurses on my unit inquired about getting our last names removed, our facililty refused. They said it was the patient’s right to know the last name and credentials of the person taking care of them. Well what about my rights?

  15. Mr Ian Says:

    It’s odd that some nurses ‘attract’ that sort of attention.
    If it’s the patient’s behaviour – then why aren’t we all getting it?

    My bank manager has his first and last name on his name plate – I wonder how many customers with mental disorders ask him for his phone number or email address?

    Come to think of it – I don’t think I’ve seen any other profession that refuses you to know their last name.

    I don’t think it’s a matter of rights – I think it’s a matter of being un-paranoid.

  16. Jennifer Says:

    A hospital where I worked wouldn’t put our last names on our badges, for security purposes. It was explained to me on my first day on the job, and I was told not to give out such information unless I knew the patient personally (although of course they probably know my name anyway). The hospital was a small rural hospital, and many of our patients were “frequent fliers”, and our administrators felt that some of our more aggressive regulars shouldn’t have easy access to that kind of information.

  17. Lauralyn Says:

    Whether you call customer service for your credit card or buy some lunchmeat from the grocery store, most employees you interact with do not have their full names on their badges.

    I do not wear my last name on my badge. My husband is a police officer who often brings psych patients or patients who are under arrest into the ED where I work. Sometimes these people end up being my patients. One time the patient/suspect saw our names on my badge and on his vest and made the connection, started yelling and screaming and threatening to come back to my workplace.

    Since then my last name has been covered and I will never give a patient my last name. If they have a complaint against me or a compliment for me they can use my first name. I am the only one in the department with my name. It is my right to have privacy.

  18. bryn Says:

    Seems like a load of rubbish to me. I don’t need to be told how to interact with my colleagues or patients.

    Any decent nurse soon learns how to communicate on a level which commands respect.

    Any decent nurse learns how to communicate effectively with their others and get the message across that is required.

    If a doctor is rude and you say “This tone of voice doesn’t create an environment where I can deliver quality patient care.” you’ll sound like a total prat, be laughed out, looked at strangely. Learn to stick up for yourself without isolating yourself as this would.

    If you spend any length of time in a department, everyone is on a first name basis, except the consultant usually.

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