An alert Ophthalmology Times reader shared with me a recent editorial from that other respected publication, The New York Times. Titled “Doctors, Nurses and the Paperwork Crisis That Could Unite Them,” the editorial is written by a professor of medicine at New York University and a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing.
Previously by Dr. McDonnell: Perils of Project Nightingale
As suggested by its title, the article posits that physicians and nurses don’t get along in an American healthcare system described as “broken, wasteful, inhuman, expensive, deadly.” They assert that “too often, each profession sees the other as fighting separate battles, and sometimes against each other.
Doctors blame nurses, and vice versa, for the failings of a system that punishes us all, and our patients. Physicians earn more than nurses and have much higher status in the medical hierarchy, which can lead to resentment from nurses when that higher status is abused.
It noted that “the gendered history of both professions also contributes to a view of nurses as fundamentally subordinate to physicians.”
The authors go on to say that “nurses and physicians must come together” to oppose a shared unfair burden: excessive demands for documentation in electronic medical records.
Related: Hospital closures hurt
Citing a report from the National Academy of Medicine that says the average doctor and nurse are spending 50% of the workday documenting in the computer, they feel that the two professions should speak with one voice to address this problem and the associated burnout.
“Doctors would be wise to let nurses take the lead” say the authors, because nurses have strong unions and doctors don’t. “The Service Employees International Union and National Nurses United represent nurses all over the United States and in general are good at getting their demands met.”
I found myself having a couple of reactions to this argument. My first reaction may relate to my being an ophthalmologist, or it might relate to the culture of the institution where I work, but I have never heard one of my physician colleagues blame nurses for any ills of our U.S. healthcare system.
Related: Ars longa, vita brevis