One of the thorniest issues in modern medicine is the use of or, more accurately, the overuse of antibiotics. I see primary care patients in my U.S. Embassy clinic, but when the illness warrants it, these patients are referred to local medical specialists for a higher level of care.
Last winter, I became concerned about antibiotics prescribed for patients I referred. For instance, I referred a young child with a viral chest infection. Despite everyone agreeing it was viral, she was given antibiotics for several weeks, anyway. I realize there is room for a medical practitioner to prescribe antibiotics when there is the possibility of secondary infection. And I know I’m on slippery ground in second-guessing what a medical specialist thinks is appropriate. But I still had a lingering question in my head: Is this the best thing to do for my patients?
I discussed several cases with my supervisor, who is a physician posted to Warsaw. He had some questions, too. So, it was decided I would speak with the physicians from the local clinic, to whom we refer most patients, just to get a feel for what their thought processes were and to be sure our American patients weren’t pushing for prescriptions. Patients do that all the time!
Schedules initially interfered, so the proposed meeting just recently took place. It was far more cordial than I anticipated. Although one of the pediatricians present didn’t say anything at all, and I have a hunch his thoughts were not available to influence one way or the other, the majority of the physicians were open and more than willing to discuss the issue. We agreed that both sides would communicate better about patients and their treatment, a really useful arrangement.
So, what is noteworthy about this meeting? I am a nurse practitioner working in a country that does not have nurse practitioners. These doctors understand I am not a physician, and I’m sure they are more than a little confused about how, as an advanced practice nurse, I have a license to practice medicine, but they understand that I do, indeed, evaluate and treat medical conditions.
In developing countries, my credibility lies in my attachment to the U.S. Embassy. Medical colleagues in developing countries have the opinion that if the United States sanctions it, it must be okay. In the Czech Republic, a medically modern society in the European Union, the fact that I am a U.S. diplomat gets me social invitations but very little else.
It has been a week since the meeting, and I’m still marveling over me sitting in a room with several physicians, with whom I only have a referral relationship, having a good chat about appropriate antibiotic use and what we can all do—together—to ensure our shared patients get the best treatment. I like the way this is going!
For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.