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Recently I participated in a high-level discussion about creating positive nurse-physician relationships. It's fascinating what happens when physicians and nurses dialogue in a sincere effort to find common ground and build a foundation for collaboration. Not surprisingly, such conversations often veer off toward dealing with disruptive behavior problems. But that's not really the heart of the issue-though it's the rut where many get stuck. No, I rather believe it's the fundamental differences in worldview between the two professions-and the various interpretations of those differences-that promote or hinder teamwork.
A friend and colleague, Dr. Charles Reese, chair of emergency medicine at my institution, uses this analogy: The two worldviews are like two sides of the same coin, complementary to one another, each necessary, but neither sufficient by themselves for the best patient care. Understanding each other's worldview is the crucial first step in erecting strong and lasting bridges that span the disciplines. Effective interpersonal skills, open communication, and conflict resolution are essential building blocks.
When you think about it, conflict between friends and colleagues is inevitable in the course of human interaction. Instead of running from it or burying it, we need to embrace that conflict openly as healthy and constructive for strengthening relationships. Doing so with mutual respect is the key.
Respect starts with self and extends to others. It means recognizing each individual's unique value in a relationship and acting in ways that will best preserve that relationship over the long haul. It means entering into interactions free of past baggage and bias. It means keeping even difficult communications objective, professional, and patient-centered or problem-focused. It means having the emotional intelligence to understand the impact of personal actions on others. And it means being committed to lifelong learning as well as openness to new ideas.
With all that said, there are indeed difficult people in this world. That goes for nurses and physicians as well as people in every other type of role. The problem isn't with one profession or the other; it's with certain individuals who lower the bar and dilute the focus from collaborative practice to behavior management.
We're all accountable for what we say and do. Let's move beyond Sandbox 101 by role modeling the right stuff. As Gandhi said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." It's the only way we can connect on a higher plane and succeed as a team.
Until next time-
Linda Laskowski-Jones, MS, RN, ACNS-BC, CCRN, CEN
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