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US nurses and doctors at loggerheads

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Serious examples of bad blood exist between nurses and doctors in the US, a survey by the American College of Physician Executives has revealed.

The 2009 Doctor-Nurse Behaviour Survey found 30 per cent of the 2,100 respondents witnessed problems between the two groups every week and 10 per cent on a daily basis.

The most prominent examples featured degrading comments or shouting, while swearing, inappropriate joking, refusal to work with one another and even throwing objects - including scalpels - were also common.

However, the worst behaviour from doctors was a lack of respect for nurses, with many respondents reporting patronising and belittling behaviour. In one example, a surgeon was quoted as saying “monkeys could be trained to do what scrubs nurses do”.   

One nurse said: “Some emergency department physicians do not respect the nurses’ opinions or suggestions. They will then appear to delay patient care ‘just to show’ the nurse.”

However, the authors of a report on the survey findings, published in Physician Executive Journal, also said nurses were not above reproach.

They said most complaints about nurses involved “backbiting, spreading rumours and attempting to blackball doctors and other members of staff”.

The authors described bad behaviour between doctors and nurses as healthcare’s “dirty little secret”.

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