It happens every summer – a new crop of interns show up on my hospital unit. It’s a nice rite of passage – a handful of new baby docs show up and spend a few months shadowing our unit’s physicians. It’s one of the perks of being a part of a teaching hospital – the patients get the benefit of some extra attention, and maybe even a new perspective. Nurses, on the other hand, aren’t always so lucky with the new docs. So consider this a love letter to the interns getting ready to start working on the floor.
- You are a guest in my house. Please remember that. Nurses run the floor and take great pride in creating an efficient and productive unit. Be aware of that when you get behind the nurse’s station and take over the choice computers, chat with your fellow interns while I’m giving report, and in general rearrange, shuffle or otherwise jack with my work station for your temporary pleasure.
- Ask the nursing staff what is happening with the patient. Want to know how the patient is responding to medications? Is she still peeing blood? What does the disposition plan looks like? Nurses, techs, and other support staff are there around the clock. Your physician is there an hour or two a day at most. We love being a resource for you (most of the time), but we hate being ignored as if we are simply there to empty bed pans.
- But do not ask me how to operate the computer. I guarantee I do not have enough time to show you, plus your computer screen doesn’t even look the same as mine. We have access to completely different sections in the chart. Come in early to practice, force a friend to help, but I can assure you, nurses do not have time to hold your hand while you battle the computer. We hate it, too, sometimes, but we don’t ask you to fix it for us.
- Think really carefully before waking up one of my patients. Touch base with the patient’s nurse first. If he’s a light sleeper who can fall back to sleep relatively easily, then go for it. But if I have just spent 8 hours talking to, praying with, medicating and coddling this guy who is finally asleep, and you wake him up all willy-nilly, then there is going to be hell to pay, I promise you.
- Be a team player – most of us have years of experience under our belts, and when we ask you for orders, we already know what we need. Respect our experience. If you forget something critical, the savvy nurse you’ve shown respect to will suggest that typically, these tests are ordered in this situation. The nurse you’ve blown off may well call you at 0345 in the morning to ask you for an order for saline nose spray, stat.
- Want to really make an impression? Bring a box of donuts in for the staff. It’s a nice gesture that goes a long way.
We do wish you the very best – after all – you might be caring for us one day, and we want you to be as prepared as possible, Until then, don’t steal my stethoscope, and bring your own darn pens.