5 Tips to Improve the Nurse-Physician Communication


Some physicians are difficult to work with, and the nurse-doctor communication can be strained when working with such doctors. However, sometimes the nurse causes the strained communication by not having all the information the doctor needs at hand.

In this article, I want to discuss some blunders nurses do that make physicians upset and more difficult to deal with, and how you can avoid making these blunders.


  1.  Forgetfulness

Nurses will page the physician, and when he returns the call, they cannot remember why they called him.

They forget because it took over one hour before the returned phone call.

Nurses have so many tasks to do, and it’s easy for things to slip out of their mind.

One way you can solve this is to always have a notebook in your pocket so that when you page the doctor, you take a moment to write his name and the time you paged him or her, as well as the reason.


  1. Confusing patients

There are some units where you are required to take care of over twenty patients. Nurses may call the doctor about one patient, but use the wrong name or diagnosis.

Confusing patients happens when nurses are overwhelmed and tired.

After talking to the doctor for two minutes, the nurse realizes they are talking about a different patient and not the one they intended to talk about. The nurse apologizes and restarts the conversation. This irritates and upsets the doctor, and some will bang or hang up the phone.

Remember, always write the name of the patient and reason for calling the physician.


  1. Calling the wrong Consultant

A patient may have fluid retention and has added five pounds in two days. Instead of calling the nephrologists or cardiologist, the nurse calls the hematologist. He gets upset and wonders why his time is being wasted.

You can avoid this by understanding each consultant’s specialty.

New nurses can initially find this challenging especially if the hospital has a wide range of consultants.

Study and be familiar with each doctor’s specialty, and when to call him or her.


  1. Keeping the doctor on hold

This is quite common. A nurses will put a call out to the doctor, and when he returns the call, she or he is busy in the middle of changing the patients wound dressing and cannot leave the patients room to attend to the phone.

The doctor waits for over five minutes, and when the nurse answers the phone, she finds an angry person, and the communication in not pleasant.

It is impossible for nurses to sit around after putting out a call, just waiting for the doctor to call back; however, one thing you can do is tell another nurse about your call and the message you want relayed to him.

This way, you are covered, and the doctor will not get annoyed with you.


  1. Sounding disorganized

The worst thing you can do when talking to a doctor about a patient is sounding disorganized. This is not uncommon because you will get overwhelmed on some days.

You want to have your facts correct and answer questions appropriately.

Start with the ‘Why?’ Or what nurses refer to as the ‘situation.’

An example of a situation is “I want you to know that Mr. John’s new dialysis line is bleeding since he returned from surgery.”

Then move to the background.

“Mr. John had surgery to place a new line and returned to the unit at 12:00 noon. The site has not stopped bleeding. We have applied pressure to the site as well as used sand bags, but there is no improvement. His vital signs are stable at this time, but the amount of blood loss is worrying, he seems to have lost about half a pint as we speak.”


Give a full assessment history, which includes specifying the vital signs and any other observations like changes in mental status.

Then allow the doctor to give you his recommendations.

It is tempting to tell the doctor what you think he should do, but if you go there, you may get yelled at.

With experience, you’ll learn how to suggest things tactfully to the physician. As a new nurse, let the physicians make the decisions unless you have questions. If you do not agree with the doctor’s decision, inform your supervisor so they can handle it.

If you are confident in your communication, even though some physicians will always be difficult, you will most certainly improve your nurse-physician communication.


Posted in : Nursing, Resources
About The Author
Joyce Fiodembo is a nurse and author. You can find plenty of resources on her blog; www.internationalnursesupport.com, where she writes to inspire and uplift nurses to thrive. Joyce is the author of “The Foreign Nurses Guide to Settling in America” and “How Nurses Cope with Difficult Coworkers” found on Amazon.com Her other book "Reflections and Prayers for Nurses" can be found on Lulu.com She started her career in Kenya where she worked as a travel, ICU and operating room nurse. Joyce works with nurses who may be struggling with cultural challenges, equipping them to settle down easily. She is also a career counselor, helping nurses with interview skills and resume writing among others. Currently working in Ohio, she enjoys volunteering for mobile clinics abroad. Joyce is passionate about writing and currently has a website with a goal of inspiring nurses worldwide. You can visit her website at www.internationalnursesupport.com
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