The nurse-doctor relationship: a selective literature review

J Adv Nurs. 1995 Jul;22(1):165-70. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.1995.22010165.x.


The disciplines of nursing and medicine are expected to work in unusually close proximity to one another, not just practising side by side but interacting with one another to achieve a common good: the health and well-being of patients. This selective review of literature addresses some of the issues arising from the frequently controversial subject of the nurse-doctor relationship and seeks to draw out the principal themes emerging from the application of sociological theory to the nurse-doctor relationship and research into its operation in clinical settings. Particular attention is paid to the 'doctor-nurse game', a stereotypical pattern of interaction, first described in the 1960s, in which (female) nurses learn to show initiative and offer advice, while appearing to defer passively to the doctor's authority. This pattern of interaction seems less common in clinical practice today but the problem remains of each profession having ideal expectations of one another which inevitably fall short as a result of differing views of qualities of doctors and nurses to be valued.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Male
  • Nurses / psychology*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Power, Psychological
  • Professional Autonomy
  • Sociology, Medical
  • Stereotyping