Saturday, 8 December 2007


Yesterday, I was on call for anaesthetic emergencies with Jim, one of the slightly more senior anaesthetic trainees. The surgeons wanted to operate on a man in his eighties who had come into hospital with bowel obstruction. When we went to see him, it was obvious that this man had so many other medical problems that if he would need to go to intensive care after the operation to give him the best chance of surviving the surgery. Jim, myself and the ward sister were in the process of organising this man’s post-operative care. Despite obviously having lots to do, this nurse was doing the best she could to help us set things up so our patient could have his operation with the minimum delay possible.

I turned to Jim and said, “Do you not find that the ward sisters (senior nurses) are generally much more helpful that the staff nurses (junior nurses)?”

“Yeah, I think there’s something in that. I think that the senior nurses see more easily that you’re trying to sort stuff out for the patients. If you’re being polite and ask reasonable stuff, then they do their best to try and help you out. I think that the more junior nurses have a tendency to lump all doctors together. If they’ve had a bad experience in the past, they get the “all doctors are arseholes” syndrome and it’s really difficult to get them to do anything at all.”


Devil's Advocate said...

Do you think nurses have the same conversation about SHOs v. Consultants?

Eithne said...

As a doctor who first trained as a nurse, I found an awful lot of the time I was treated like some kind of idiotic handmaiden as a staff nurse by most doctors. Why wouldn't you assume that an entire profession are arseholes if the majority of them wander around thinking they can look down their noses at you??!! We all make generalisations about the professions we work with, as you so excellently illustated when speaking to your colleague in this post. Nurse managers have more time to be lovely and nice and give us doctors individual attention because they don't have to partake in patient care on an understaffed ward, that's the simple answer.

Dr Michael Anderson said...

It's not about being handmaidens or being nice to doctors, it's about doing the best for our patients. Some of the best nurses I've ever worked with have been cantankerous gits, but they knew what was important to help the patients and cared about them. That's the difference. As you get more experienced it becomes easier to see what's important for a given patient, and what's really not. And yes, that does apply to doctors as well as nurses.

I get annoyed when just because a nurse has a chip on his/her shoulder, s/he buggers off and leaves you to look after the sickest, dying patient and offers no help. What do we come to work for?