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Is It Appropriate For Nurses To Debate A Doctor’s Diagnosis?
Date Posted: 10/Aug/2014
Sometimes, differences in opinion can cause tensions in the workplace. In most professions, slight disagreements between colleagues is not a matter of life or death…but what if the matter at stake literally is? In the healthcare profession, the issue is knowing when it is necessary for a nurse to step in to voice what the best practice is for the patient. Often times,  the nurse and doctor dynamic in our society leaves the assumption that because doctors have had more formal education that they always practice better judgement than nurses. However, that is not the case. Even though their training is vastly different, so is their level of responsibility. 
Nurses need to be able to stand up for what they believe is the best way to treat the patient’s issue. However, it is ultimately always the doctor who is responsible to executing the final diagnosis decision.
Nurses spend more time one-on-one with patients and become heavily versed in the particular ailments, treatments and personalities of the patient. Physicians spend far less time physically engaging with the hospital guests than the nurses. This means nurses have unique insight that often times is overlooked by the practicing doctor; therefore they may not be able to effectively see how the treatments have been affecting the hospital guest. Nurses build personal connections with guests that allow them to diagnose proper treatment. They can see what elements of their healthcare regimen has worked or not.
What Would You Do?
Imagine an elderly cancer patient with pre-existing health problems was suffering from severe issues from chemotherapy treatments. And, the practicing physician ordered the chemo to continue despite concerns from yourself and even other staff. In your opinion, the treatments are only causing the old man to have heart issues and intense additional suffering. How would you approach the issue to a stubborn physician? Nurses become nurses because they want to be advocates for the sick and injured. The last thing we want is to see diagnoses hurt more than help.
Travel nurses especially have a hard time standing up to the opinions of physicians while on assignments because of their unfamiliarity of the doctor’s personality and being only there for about 13 weeks. So when is it appropriate to speak up?
When you should disagree with a diagnosis (according to
1. When the doctor isn’t listening to you or the patient
Nurses often have more contact with patients than doctors do leading up to surgeries or consultations. It’s during those interactions that nurses often find out relevant information about a patient’s condition that may not be obvious otherwise. If you have something to add and the doctor blows you off, it’s probably a good idea to take them aside and let them know that they shouldn’t ignore the information you’re conveying.
2. When the doctor is belittling you
Most doctors are professional, respectful, and courteous. There are some bad apples, though. Doctors who make you sound stupid in front of patients and/or coworkers need to be told that what they’re doing isn’t acceptable. Otherwise your ability to do your job will be compromised.
3. When the patient’s safety is in danger
If the doctor is showing any signs of incompetency — be it poor decision making or even signs of intoxication — it’s a must that you take it up with the doctor involved before he or she does something harmful to the patient. If that doesn’t work, tell your superior immediately.
4. When the doctor isn’t letting you do your job
Sometimes nurses assist or even handle some surgical procedures, including anesthetizing patients. If a doctor comes in, pulls the whole, “I’ll take it from here” routine, and tries to keep you from handling your duties, you should say something to him or her. Otherwise, he or she is likely to keep pushing you aside.”
As a healthcare professional, the most important part of your job is the duty of providing the best possible care and treatments to patients. Don’t be afraid to speak up if something feels wrong. It may just save a life.


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