1. Anonymous

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I have been a critical care nurse for almost 30 years. During that time, I have worked with hundreds of physicians. Most of them (99%) are caring, compassionate people who genuinely worry about their patients. Many have great respect for nurses and can empathize with the problems we now face, mostly because they have their own problems-rising malpractice insurance premiums, decreased reimbursement, and so forth. Most physicians and nurses work as allies to care for patients. But what happens when a nurse becomes a patient? This recently happened to me, and it was an horrific experience.


I had a similar experience 25 years earlier with an intern who told me my asthma would go away if I could just calm down. He and I had a conversation, and he changed his mind about the causes of asthma.


Recently, I had a much different experience. I was in an accident and visited a nearby emergency room. The nursing care was wonderful. I was triaged by an RN and assessed by an ARNP immediately. Their care was reassuring. The injury was bothering me, but I did not ask for pain medication. However, the ARNP picked up on the signals and gave me demerol and phenergan. The ARNP asked if I wanted a particular doctor. The doctor was off (Saturday, of course), but his partner was in the building. Although I had reservations about seeing him, I agreed to do so. The ARNP said he would be available in 5 to 10 minutes. Seventy minutes later, he appeared. It had been a long time since I had seen or worked with him, so we made the visit brief. I agreed to see him in his office in 5 days. At that time, he complained about the care I received in the emergency room, but I reminded him he provided that care. We scheduled surgery for the next day. I had several questions (this was not my area of expertise). He hardly answered me. In fact, he was writing on another patient's chart at the time, and I called him on it. I informed him he had the obligation of listening to me. He was livid. I asked to change to the doctor I respected in the group. I found that the policy in their office is that once a physician treats a patient, that patient must see him or her and only him or her for that particular illness/injury.


The next day I went to the appointed hospital. My appointment for preoperative care was 1:30 pm; I arrived at 1:20 pm; surgery was scheduled for 3:00 pm. The nurse took a brief history and started an IV line. She asked me to sign a consent form and then she could give me some medication to relax. I was calm. Because I had questions, I waited to take the medications. At 4:30 pm, the doctor raged into my room because he was already late and I was not helping-too bad. He told me I did not have the right to ask questions-he was the doctor. He was furious, and I was ready to walk out. He begrudgingly answered my few questions after I reminded him of the Patients' Bill of Rights. I really hated going to surgery with him as the surgeon, but I did it, regardless of my fears. I should have listened to my instincts and gone home.


In the operating room, the anesthesiologist took a brief history. I am afraid of masks, so I asked him to place a mask to the side of my face until I was sedated enough to be intubated. He did not do this, and I woke up struggling for breath.


I saw the doctor 10 days after the surgery. At that time, he complained about my care. I again reminded him that he had provided it. He was still furious. He asserted that nurses were the worst patients. I commented that my worst patients were doctors. I had questions and wanted answers. He said I should trust him. Nevertheless, something went wrong during the surgery. I need more care. I asked again to see the other doctor. Again, I was refused.


I return to the physician tomorrow. I expect he will recommend more surgery. He was still furious 2 weeks ago. Patients/nurses should be heard and be very quiet in the presence of the god-like surgeon. I intend to keep the visit and take him a copy of the Patients' Bill of Rights. I am sure the visit will be adversarial. After tomorrow, I will switch groups. I intend to send letters to the state medical association, state licensing bureau, and the hospital. I may sue because something went awry with the surgery.


If doctors who know us treat us this way, can you imagine how patients who are not in the medical field fare? We, as nurses, must be patient advocates, even if the physician is an ogre. Then report the physician's harassment to the proper person. This should not and cannot be allowed to happen. Physicians are ordinary people, just like nurses and others. All should be treated with respect.