If you find yourself on the “outs” with a doc, ask yourself, “Is this is a consistent problem or a one-time occurrence?” And if you answered "yes” to it being a repetitive problem, then you have just diagnosed a strained nurse-physician relationship.

Let’s be honest: the climate in hospitals these days is tough. Physicians and nurses are working 10-15 hour days without much rest between shifts. Medical professionals may see one another more than we see our own families. And like families, hospital staff also have their own fair share of strained work relationships.

One of the easiest fixes to a strained relationship is courtesy. We have all been sitting at the nurses’ station when the phone hangs up and the staff member puts his/her head in their hands. Most likely, it’s a wife, husband, or child asking them, “Where are you? It’s late.” Showing empathy to our co-workers goes along way.

However, there are times when the strained relationship needs more attention, and you will need to speak directly to the physician. Keep in mind when you approach sensitive subjects that both parties have the patient’s best interest in mind, no matter how “right” you think you are. Here are some tips on improving a strained relationship:

  1. Focus on improving the current status. Be positive.
  2. Follow the chain of command. Use resources like your charge nurse, educator, or manager to assist you in sorting out the conversation beforehand.
  3. Address facts, not feelings. Do not allow yourself to become unraveled. Most likely, the physician will want to address the issue as well. And do not let the conversation escalate. Remember you will have to work with this person every day.
  4. Try to identify a theme. Fatigue, language barrier, cultural diversity, or perhaps a personality difference.
  5. Always end with a patient-centered statement, such as: “Glad we were able to get the patient what they needed.” Do you have other tips for repairing a nurse-physician relationship?