Grey Gorilla Syndrome: When Doctors and Nurses Don't Get Along.

What do you do when doctors and nurses don't get along? A reader asks for my advice

Hi Happy,  I have this problem, I wanted some advice from someone with more experience  dealing with this.....

I have been bashed by nurses, because, they expect me to know all the bureaucratic issues, when you don't have more than a month in the hospital. I have noticed that nurses get mad, when you give them an instruction  they don't understand, or they aren't used to, not because you are wrong, but instead, their lack of ignorance, or their narrow process of thought. One example of this is when they laugh at me cause i prescribed a generic medication of a common drug, that they weren't familiar with the generic name.

Days ago, a first year family doctor was yelled badly by some nurse, because she filled in the prescription chart where she shouldn't, the first year didn't know because no one told her. I have seen that attitude several times from different nurses, they yell at them in a very unproper manner.

They even try to make unreasonable suggestions, when they haven't talked with patients, maybe because some other doctor did something similar, in a "similar" patient. they always be there, when no one asked for their opinion. They have very well defined where their tasks end, but not when they have to keep from making opinions they aren't supposed to do.

I have come to the conclusion that nurses receive more respect from doctors (at least from me), than they actually give (me), specially to young doctors, even doctors share more respect themselves, that nurses  for medical profession.

I don't want to make generalizations,  not all of them are like this. but I assume there is some sort of tendency. because same things repeats over and over.

I'm not a nurse hater, I get along well with nurses, I'm very grateful for all the help they can provide, I have to thank many times the nurses for the advice, in changes of the patient status, but I feel I get more respect from my medical staff than nurses.  Is this similar at your hospital?

What do I have to do in order to stop some nurses from being an ass?  Sometimes I feel if I confront them it can get worse. My attitude is to avoid confrontation, I just keep silent.

You find yourself in an interesting set of circumstances, unless you have worked at a veteran's  hospital where my experience with many nurses was one of  self absorbed power struggles.  They had a Federal job with little to no risk of ever getting fired.  Ever.  What's the difference between a VA nurse and a gun?  You can fire a gun.

In fact, one resident physician often referred to the VA nurses as grey back gorillas.  In his own words:
The longer the VA nurse worked, the larger they got and the more powerful they became.  As the hair on their back turned grey, they became the grey back gorilla leaders of their nursing clan.  They were in charge of molding all the young VA gorilla nurses into future grey backs.  These were the obstructive nurses who did everything they could to make the doctor's life difficult while compromising patient care 
What could you do?  As a doctor in training, you were only there for a few short years before moving on to real life medicine.   The VA grey back gorillas were  there for life.  As a resident, you just had to deal with it.  Some learned to integrate amongst them.  Some learned to avoid them.   You learned whom you could trust and  whom you could lean on for support.   Ultimately, taking the higher road made you a better person that day.  You had to learn not to care what other people thought of you.  I expect a lot from people around me.  What I hate is laziness.  I hate seeing people take the path of least resistance because that says to me they don't care.   The people who are offended by this commentary are offensive to me.

I could care less whether a nurse or a doctor or a patient respected me.  I have no interest in trying to gain respect.  What others think of me is inconsequential. I have no interest in trying to seek the approval of others.    I do what's right for my patients and I let my outcomes speak for themselves.   Stop worrying about how you can change others and just focus on what you can do to make yourself better.   If respect is what you're looking for, you're much more likely to get it by placing those around you on their own pedestal, by the actions you choose for yourself.   When a nurse is being mean to you, tell them what a great job they did carrying for your patients. The grey backs never expect it, but they'll remember you as the doctor who said something nice.  And they are going to remember it for a very long time.

I think this original Happy Hospitalist medical e-card nicely sums up the discussion about when doctors and nurses don't get along.

"Some doctors can be real jerks.  And by jerks, I mean they won't give me what my patients need. (and by my patients, I mean me)."

Some doctors are jerks nurse ecard humor photo


This post is for entertainment purposes only and likely contains humor only understood by those in a healthcare profession. Read at your own risk.   In addition, if you are a grey back gorilla, I want to assure you that none of your grey back colleagues were harmed in the writing of this post.  They were at home collecting full pay and benefits while celebrating Columbus Day.  And Flag Day.  And Name Your Holiday Day.

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