Promoting and maintaining safe and effective patient care are the major objectives in a healthcare setting, however, if some of the vital members (i.e. doctors) in your healthcare team are very difficult to cope with and somehow intimidating or even hostile to you and to others, this may absolutely lead a negative influence on you, your work, your team and possibly the care that you are providing to your patient/s. Here are the 5 steps on how to deal with difficult doctors.

Approach the situation professionally. Remember that you’re still a nurse and you’re still providing care to your patient/s, it is wise to think your patient/s first and don’t jeopardize their health just because a doctor is hostile or bullying you. No matter what the situation is, if you are still on-duty, the patient will always be still the priority. We should never forget that we nurses are patients’ advocates.

Moreover, handle the situation first without opinion and emotion, ensure that you manage your tone and proper body language. Don’t show signs of fear but show a sense of self-confidence.

When a nurse reported to the physician that her patient was highly anxious and had shortness of breath, the physician told the nurse to give the patient some Ativan [anti-anxiety medication] and take some herself. Later that evening the patient was admitted to the ICU [intensive care unit] with congestive heart failure.”
– Data from an annual meeting of the Pacific Coast Obstetrical and Gynecological Society

It is imperative to know first the policies and protocols in your workplace before planning and implementing any unwarranted measures particularly the situation you are into so you can recognize the proper guidelines to take such as what necessary actions to carry out first, the right person to report to, what letter format and the right person will the letter be addressed to.

However, other workplaces do not have these specific policies, so trying to suggest these policies to your head is a wise idea, if your head does not seem responsive or does not act, move up the chain of command and try suggesting these policies to them. This action will add an outline into place making sure that incidents like this continue and acknowledged by your superiors.

After you read the policies or suggesting one to your superiors, the next step is to compose yourself first and ensure you are calm, collected and ready to approach the doctor.

Approach the doctor privately and start with a simple conversation without losing your composure such as “this will not help us treat the patient” or “I don’t deserve to be treated this way”. Private conversation with the doctor works better than a public challenge.

Furthermore, apologize only if appropriate, such as if the doctor blames you of not doing your job properly, the best options are to apologize, compromise, ask for clarification and display a willingness to learn while still keeping your self-respect & confidence.


If the doctor still continues to display disruptive & inappropriate behavior, not willing to change and its nearly impossible to resolve the situation privately, then filing a formal complaint report and sending them to your head, supervisor or HR representative is the last best option.

Keep in mind that you must stay professional by maintaining a balanced, objective and neutral tone with your complaint report and writing a factual information including the place, time and a list of witnesses.

Unfortunately, there are some circumstances where your superiors, the management and the human resource have different perspectives, framework and even worse cannot find a solution on your situation. In this case, in spite of all the efforts you made, it may be best for you to move on. You may ask to be transferred to another department or find another nursing position somewhere else. This doesn’t mean you are frail and easy to surrender, by moving on, this only means that you care about yourself and decline to spend your whole career just being mistreated and violated. You really don’t have the control to change other people, but the way you respond to them.

But unfortunately, protecting nurses does not appear to be high-priority at many of these institutions. That has to change.”
– Award-winning author Alexandra Robbins

Furthermore, we nurses are vital factors for the patient’s recovery that sometimes nursing care makes the biggest influence on their progressive recovery. However, the most efficient and effective quality patient care is the union and cooperation within the healthcare team such as nurses and doctors are communicating professionally and working together toward a common goal.

5 Useful Steps On How To Deal With Difficult Doctors
Ben believes that being a nurse is a never ending learning process and his main goal is to uplift the status of nursing profession through continuous learning.