Nurses' perceptions of Doctor's use of social power

Registered Nurses' perceptions of Doctors' relative use of French and Raven's six bases of social power were investigated. Seventy-two Registered Nurses from six Los Angeles hospitals were presented with eight written stories in which a doctor orders a nurse to provide a specific medical treatment for a patient. Sex of doctor, level of doctor's expertise (intern vs. specialist), and extremity of medical treatment requested (moderate vs. extreme) were varied in each story, yielding a two by two by two factorial within-subject design. Subjects rated the likelihood of questioning behavior by the nurse described in each story and their own uncertainty over the treatment requested by the doctor. For each story, subjects also rated each of the bases of social power in terms of likelihood of use by the doctor described in the story. The data was analyzed in terms of the following hypotheses: (1) Female doctors are questioned less and provoke less reservation than male doctors; (2) doctors with high expertise are questioned less and provoke less reservation than doctors low in expertise; (3) moderate treatments are questioned least and provoke least reservation; (5) male doctors of low expertise requesting an extreme treatment are questioned most and provoke the most reservation; (6)female doctors are perceived as having higher referent and expert power; (7) doctors requesting extreme treatments are perceived as having less expert power than doctors requesting moderate treatments; and (8) a negative relationship is perceived between expert and referent power. Hypotheses 1, 2,4,5,7, and 8 were not confirmed; Analysis of variance revealed significant results for the main effect of sex of doctor on referent power; for the main effect of expertise on reward and legitimate power; for the main effect of treatment extremity on RN questioning, subject uncertainty, reward, referent and legitimate power. Some possible reasons for the failure to find significant differences were discussed and a method for future research was proposed.