There is a particular physician employed by my hospital who HATES nurse practitioners. Should you as a nurse practitioner enter the physician lounge for a quick bite to eat or park in a physician-reserved spot prepare for immediate and intense verbal assault if this particular doctor is present. If you treat one of his patients in the ER, get someone with an MD behind their name to call in the consult for you. Otherwise, prepare for verbal battery. But is this the norm?
One question I am frequently asked by prospective nurse practitioners is if I feel respected or valued by the physicians with whom I work. Prospective NP’s want to be sure they aren’t entering a career where they will be looked down on or treated as second class citizens.
I can say with confidence most physicians, particularly those that hire nurse practitioners, treat NP’s with respect. Our scope of practice is different than that of physicians but as a nurse practitioner I know my boundaries and abide by them. The physicians with whom I work don’t hesitate to teach me when I have a question or problem and do so in a way that does not undermine my intelligence and exhibits respect. I feel that they recognize my gaps in knowledge do not represent an intellectual deficit but simply that I have less formal medical education. The doctors with whom I work would much rather be helpful and approachable than compromise patient safety. They also recognize that as they help me increase my skills, I become a more valuable asset and am able to perform at an increasingly higher level.
The physicians and nurse practitioners in the ER where I work take a collaborative, team-based approach to treating patients. Typically, physicians treat the elderly and most sick patients while I treat the moderately ill or acutely injured. In practice, the system does not always work that way. We may, for example, have multiple significantly ill patients present to the ER at the same time. In this case, I step up and treat very sick patients making sure to get physician input in my plan of care as necessary. I never feel less valued because I don’t perform higher level functions such as intubating patients or running codes in the ER. In fact, I prefer not to have the pressure of these jobs!
When will physicians stop respecting you as a nurse practitioner? As in any job, you will be respected if you work hard. Just because you chose to become a NP rather than a MD does not mean you don’t need to pull your own weight. Another good way to lose respect is making mistakes. Use the physicians with whom you practice as a resource. It is much better to ask questions of your supervising physician or physician colleagues than to make a mistake compromising a patient’s health. If you don’t ask questions, not only are you practicing dangerously but you will lose respect from coworkers. Develop your skills and discipline and seek help when you need it. Work hard, work smart and you will gain and keep respect from your physician colleagues.