You’re a Nurse. Don’t You Have to Do What The Doctor Says?

“You’re a nurse. Don’t you have to do what the doctor says?”

Pulcinella (Punch & Judy) oil on canvas by jparadisi 2011

I check my iPhone to be sure the year is still 2012. I have not magically transported to a nursing station in the past, say 30 years ago, because it’s been 30 years since someone has asked me this question. I can’t believe the woman on the other end of the phone asks it now.

She answers phones at a doctor’s office. I want to say, “You have to do what the doctor says, because you’re his employee, not me,” but I don’t. She isn’t being rude.  She doesn’t understand the role of a Registered Nurse.

“This is an opportunity to educate,” I says to myself. So I give it a go:

“Nurses work with doctors, administering the medications they order to patients. However, it is my job to also prevent patients from harm as a result of their medications. I am calling to tell the doctor I cannot give this patient her medication today, because of her lab values. We have to reschedule the medication, when the lab results improve.”

“But the doctor wants the patient to get the medication today.”

“I know. Giving it today may harm the patient. I’m not calling to ask the doctor if I can give the medication. I’m calling to tell the doctor the infusion will be rescheduled.”

You do not understand! The doctor wants the patient to get it today.”

“I do understand. It is not safe for the patient.”

“You’re a nurse. Don’t you have to do what the doctor says?”

Sigh. “Is the doctor available? May I speak with him, please?”