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Chelsea Willmott asks if doctors and nurses are still playing charades.

Many professions in healthcare have a hierarchy attached. Historically, the hierarchy between Doctors and Nurses placed medicine superior to nursing from both knowledge and social status. This gave rise to the development of a game between these health professional groups called the Doctor Nurse game. From the mid 1960s this game prohibited nurses from openly challenging Doctors' authority or clinical judgement and led to nurses becoming highly creative at posing their suggestions around patient care.

Chelsea Willmott, a nurse and a Lecturer in Nursing, explored whether this game was still prevalent despite advances in the nursing profession in both education, knowledge and status. Through interviewing six rural nurses and six rural GPs, she found that the game and tension between the two professions still exists in some clinical contexts. GPs remained unclear on what nurses' knowledge and skill level was as they had not been taught what nurses know or do, and this is likely to be a barrier to developing a professional respect for them and their contribution. 

Chelsea has spoken and written about her findings to raise awareness with health professionals practising in a rural context. Her hope is to encourage doctors and nurses and other health professionals to work more collaboratively in their respective practices. Chelsea was also able to identify some tools to help nurses to speak up constructively and respectfully.



September 2018

Image credit: Anoto AB, used under Creative Commons licence CC BY NC ND 2.0