Warring bosses

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Aug 01, 2005

Q. Whose directions should I follow when the doctors disagree?


Dr. Karen E. Felsted
The best solution is for the owner to set a policy that everyone follows, says Karen Felsted, DVM, CVPM, MS, CPA, a consultant with Brakke Consulting Inc. in Dallas. When that doesn't happen, you'll need to mediate. And your approach will depend on the severity of the situation. For example, say two doctors ask you to place catheters differently. "If Dr. B looks at the catheter you placed for Dr. A and says he thinks placing the catheter that way is stupid, just ignore the comment," Dr. Felsted says. "If the comment implies criticism of your work, simply say, 'Dr. A asked me to do it this way.' If Dr. B says not to do it that way again, your response should be, 'Dr. A told me to place the catheter this way. Can the three of us talk about this?' "

It's not fair for the doctors to put you in the middle, Dr. Felsted says. "But If Dr. A wants you to place a catheter differently than Dr. B does, you don't have much choice. It's your responsibility to perform the task the way the doctor asks you to," she says.

If the problem escalates, you may need to involve the practice manager or owner. In this case, Dr. Felsted recommends tracking the times the doctors have asked you to perform a task differently. "Obviously it's best to be able to cite specific examples," she says. "And avoid using the words 'always' and 'never.' "

During the discussion, stay calm, avoid becoming defensive, and never yell. "You've got to handle the situation with maturity," says Dr. Felsted. "It's not always easy, but you've got to stand up for yourself in a calm, professional manner."