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Physician-Nurse Relationship

The primary bond between medical practice and nursing is mutual ethical concern for patients. One of the duties in providing reasonable care is fulfilled by a nurse who carries out the orders of the attending physician. Where orders appear to the nurse to be in error or contrary to customary medical and nursing practice, the physician has an ethical obligation to explain those orders to the nurse involved. Whenever a nurse recognizes or suspects error or discrepancy in a physician's orders, the nurse has an obligation to call this to the attention of the physician. The ethical physician should neither expect nor insist that nurses follow orders contrary to standards of good medical and nursing practice. In emergencies when prompt action is necessary and the physician is not immediately available, in the performance of reasonable care a nurse may be justified in acting contrary to the physician's standing orders for the safety of the patient. Such occurrences should not be considered to be a breakdown in professional relations. (JC 3.02-87) (Reaffirmed A-23)

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Abbreviations for House of Delegates report origination:

EC – Executive Committee; BT – Board of Trustees; CPA – Council on Professional Affairs; JC – Judicial Council; CHS – Community and Health Services

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