Physician Outlook

How Great Nurses Make a Physician’s Job Easier

It takes a TEAM of healthcare professionals to make sure patients get the very best care. One of the most important team members is the registered nurse.

Whether they work in an office, hospital, or healthcare facility, physicians rely on nurses to ensure that they can give the best patient care possible. This is especially important now that there’s an ongoing physician shortage in the US. In fact, by 2025, we’ll be 46,000 to 90,000 physicians short. It certainly doesn’t help that by the same year, the demand for physicians will grow by at least 17% due to the growth in population. This results in physicians being spread even thinner. A sicker, aging population, a physician shortage--this sounds like a recipe for disaster. 

Fortunately, there is a solution. We need to increase the number of Registered Nurses, and ensure that they are paid handsomely for the important work that they do.  Great nurses can help make the lives of physicians and patients easier and safer. Here’s how: 

Nurses provide much-needed assistance

It’s no secret that physicians don’t have enough time to accommodate all of the patients that need to be cared for. It is becoming obvious that the solution is NOT to put under-trained Nurse Practitioners in direct primary care/care-taking roles on their own. Most young, unsupervised NP's, unfortunately, do not get a long enough or extensive enough education to competently independently practice medicine.  They lack the years of clinical experience that the first few generations of Nurse Practitioners acquired at the bedside and in the trenches.

What we need is to train more trusted, experienced nurses to help physicians with the many facets involved in taking good care of patients. 

The importance of the clinical nurse's role in the care of each patient cannot be under-stated.  Nurses do much more than update the patient's medical history, allergies, medications and chief complaint--they report this updated information succinctly to the attending physician so that the doctor is able to assess and treat the patient appropriately.

This situation is much the same in hospitals. Nurses’ help is especially prevalent in overcrowded departments like the ED. It certainly doesn’t help how the more patients that are admitted into the ED at a time, the more medical attention all the other patients need. Fortunately, as one of the top careers in nursing, more BSN graduates are choosing to go into critical care. Critical care nurses handle a lot of tasks, from redressing wounds to administering medication, but their primary role is to monitor patients and report any changes to the attending physician. Cardiac nurses, RN anesthetists, and other nursing roles provide similar assistive roles.

Nurses serve as the connection between physician and patient

Nurses spend more time with patients than their doctors, so they tend to form closer connections with their patients. True enough, our research on the topic shows that nurses can better fulfill the human connection part of patient care. Therefore, it’s no surprise that patients are more willing to engage in small talk with their nurses. Incidentally, great nurses know how to use this opportunity to uncover important health information, especially those that patients are not willing to tell their physician. Nurses are also more than equipped to answer basic patient inquiries (for example, the details of how a procedure is performed. This lets physicians focus on the more clinical parts of the procedure.

Nurses perform a variety of tasks

Nurses aren’t just well versed in the care of patients; they are often in charge of administrative tasks like scheduling different appointments and procedures and they are also integral in working with clinical pharmacists. Of course, there are different nurse types that are best suited for each task. For example, a nurse case manager is a type of registered nurse that’s in charge of updating and revising patient healthcare plans. This includes getting in contact with the patient’s insurance provider. Since they hold all the data, nurse case managers are also pivotal in estimating the patient’s recovery period. There are also nurse informaticists. These are the people who store your patients’ electronic health records and pull them out upon request. Some clinical nurses also help in administrative tasks.

The best nurses adapt to function in the role that they are most needed in. An OB/labor nurse will float to Pediatrics or the ER when the census is low, or will pitch in on a general medical or surgical floor as needed. 

Dr. William Osler said it best, "The trained nurse has become one of the great blessings of humanity, taking a place beside the physician and the priest."


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