Diagnosis: Doctor's arrogance

"There are very few words of thanks for the nurses that save the doctor's ass time and time again."

By Letters to the Editor

Published June 7, 2000 7:02PM (EDT)

Bedside terror BY JEFF DRAYER (06/05/00)

Jeff Drayer's article displays the arrogant condescension that physicians all too frequently have for nurses who work side by side with them, viewing them at best as aides and at worst as groupies.

Drayer admits to being speechless at the bedside of a patient with a life-threatening condition, only nodding mutely to the directions (in the guise of questions) given him by the nursing staff. Yet after recounting that situation, Drayer describes the nurse's "eyes like saucers," suggesting admiration of his work. Perhaps her eyes were like saucers with the frightening realization that, without the expertise of the nursing staff, the patient would have had a grim prognosis.

Drayer got one thing right: If I were in his hospital, I would be very afraid indeed to be treated by him.

-- Stephanie Lang

After having read Drayer's account of his first "code," I was reminded once again of why I am no longer a registered nurse. The attitude of most physicians toward nurses and nurse practitioners is a maddening mix of condescension and absolute reliance -- condescending to "fix the uncontrolled bleeding brought about by an overzealous nurse practitioner," then the "Oh my God, what do I do?" reliance on a nurse who leads him through what is a complex procedure performed under the most stressful circumstance: your patient dying before your eyes.

Unfortunately, the condescending attitude is much more prevalent, and there are very few words of thanks for the nurses that save the doctor's ass time and time again. Yes, there is a reason that nursing school is only four years, and medical school much more, but far too many doctors still believe in the "doctor knows best, and if he doesn't some nurse (or even worse, some other doctor) will thanklessly cover for him" school of medicine.

-- C. Nolin

Thank God Drayer has chosen a specialty where it is unlikely that he will ever again be called upon to resuscitate a patient. In my experience, there is no illusion in the field of medicine that completing medical school makes one a competent physician. It provides only a foundation of knowledge which one takes forward to learn the practice of medicine. The next three to eight years of internship and residency provide training in the practical application of that knowledge. During that time (in responsible institutions), each new physician practices with adequate and appropriate supervision and is given increased independence and responsibility with time and increasing experience. A good physician never stops learning.

-- Joseph Foss, M.D.

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