Dear Dr. Newbie


So it’s mid-July and my workplace is filled with young eager faces, ready to take on all that medicine has to bring. Nothing makes this nurse feel more geriatric than those newly bearing the initials DO/MD. I love working in academic medical centers and this is where I’ve chosen to practice nursing for the last 25 years.   It is, in part, because of the opportunity to teach to and learn from the next generation of medical experts aka Dr. Newbie.

To welcome you into our hallowed profession of healing, restoring, promoting etc. I offer you, the new physician, five keys to success as you begin your career.

Get to Know your Teammates

The literature is packed with the benefits of teamwork in high-stress environs like ours. And that’s what it is — OURS — we individually own a significant portion of our professional happiness. Solid relationships are a part of this; showing interest in the people sharing your trench goes a long way. You’re a health promoter/restorer/defender and that includes your workplace environment. Your patients will heal faster, you’ll stamp out burnout, your sense of purpose and accomplishment will rise and you will be stressed to the less! We cannot take on the monumental tasks each patient brings without each other and like I always say, “It don’t seem work when it’s teamwork!”


Ask If You Don’t Know

These are the facts – You are smart! You are dedicated! You are resilient! I know this by three words – medical school graduate. No nurse can deny the commitment, the brain power and self-deprecation you possess to achieve what you’ve accomplished. That being said, you do not know everything! The good news thoIMG_1C00D462CF88-1ugh, nurses don’t either and this is where that teamwork thing comes in to play. Saying “How does this work? or “Do you have any idea what’s wrong with this patient?” or “What do we usually do in this situation?” will garner the respect and admiration you desire, reduce your stress and make you {GASP!} human. Faking it until making it never works for you, your patients or your team.

Don’t Nickel and Dime

Want to alienate nurses and get thrown under a bus? (Don’t worry — we’ll drag your sorry pedestrian vs. vehicle self into the trauma bay and save you!) Give us one order at a time or add on a lab the second I withdraw the butterfly from the patient’s arm or, best, order something just as my patient is exiting his ER room to head to an inpatient bed. Get the five & ten rep from nurses and you’ll find that four-year residency starts feeling more like eight.

Now go get the whole picture (ask those questions above) before placing those orders!

Do Not Fight Fire with Fire

FACT: Your going to work with people you do not like. Nursing is a spectrum-disorder that runs from Nurse Ratched to Nancy Nurse. The cruel end of the spectrum is not

worth your time to attempt a “healing”. You’re only on a month’s rotation and that passive-aggressive beast is fueled by your attention. Additionally, they know the policies on work performance better then the Senior VP for HR. They’ll ride their abuse to the fine line of a #11 scalpel yet never get cut. Learn who not to be from these folks and don’t let them turn that M.D. into moral distress!

Do Things Doctors Don’t Usually Do

Help me roll my patient during a “Code Brown” scenario, hand my patient a urinal (without asking for my assistance in employing this high-tech device) or stop in a room for a call light that’s blinking and your approval rating will soar. I’ll be your hype-man from that point forward and won’t let anyone trash-talk your game! As a bonus, I’ll also take on your Ratcheds!

Identify a Situational Mentor


Mentoring is often thought in terms of lasting relationships. In reality, you’re  going to meet and work with many people on the short-term. It is important to identify advisers in every one of your rotations. The senior resident or attending physician that delivers care in a manner that makes you say, “That’s why I became a doctor” is the easy (right!) choice.  There’s a second mentor you should also find — a “salty dog” nurse, like myself. I’ve been around the block and I can add the art of healing to the science you already have. It’s the “stuff” you’ll never find in a textbook. The give and take in these relationship adds high-qualitative value to your experience (and breathes some fresh life into the people you choose!)

BONUS Tip: Watch “Scrubs” PRN

I’ve watched them all and no one does a better job than J.D., Turk, Eliot, Carla, Dr. Cox and Dr. Kelso in poking fun while delivering a message; it’s the realest of all medical shows! You’ve signed up to work in the business of life and death — it’s a tough calling. Have an outlet(s) that let you pop off steam, let’s you laugh at yourself and reminds you it’s not just about you

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