Supporting Physicians Through Communications Techniques

Nanette Nuessle, MD | Kansas

Hi, I’m Dr. Nan Nuessle and I’m here to answer the question, “how can our healthcare system be improved to support physicians and patients?” I’m a pediatric hospitalist with 30 years’ experience on the frontlines and have been a coach and trainer for the last two years of that.  

The story of how I became a coach is critical in understanding how this can help. I was working in a small rural hospital that was just reopening their labor and delivery unit. We’d been open for roughly six months and we’d lost the manager who helped us open that. She had planned to leave after three months and stayed for six.  

She was replaced by another nurse who was put in the charge nurse position. She had a chip on her shoulder because she wasn’t given the managerial position, and she chose to take that out on me. And this wasn’t just affecting me; this was affecting our staff in labor and delivery as well. The anxiety level was so high that people were leaving our unit to go work in other units, and not only going to other units but to other hospitals. We were losing staff over this. 

When I learned to speak to her in the language of her values, all of the sudden she had no traction to start an argument. She was no longer able to recruit other people into the cycle of bullying. Within three days, the anxiety level in our unit went from here [hand held high] to here [hand held low]. Three days folks. Within three weeks, nurse managers from other units came to me and asked me to help them with conflict resolution on their units. Physicians came to me and asked me to help them with contract negotiations, to renegotiate their contracts that were up for renewal.  

I began to do “lunch and learns” around the hospital and teach this information. And the general morale of the entire hospital went up, as they were better able to negotiate things, set boundaries and even do their own conflict resolution amongst themselves.  

Let’s open up those lines of communication that either aren’t working well or aren’t working at all and rebuild those bridges. 

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