Imagine breezing through every day at the office engaging only with patients who are respectful, pleasant, appreciative and who never complain. They’re so happy to be in your office and you’re so pleased to see them that your job is a joy and you go home each afternoon feeling satisfied and energized. If only, right? In reality, while you hopefully do have plenty of patients that you truly enjoy engaging with and taking care of, you likely have at least a few each week that are impatient, rude or intimidating. In other words, they’re “difficult.” Here’s how to deal with patients across the difficulty spectrum.
Situation: Mrs. Martin is usually a wonderful patient – gracious, appreciative and kind. But she’s also in chronic pain and occasionally has a really bad day and takes it out on the staff. She apologizes later and feels bad about having been testy.
Action: Cut her some slack. No one is at their best when they’re not feeling well. Compassion is in order in this situation. Read more about having tolerance and empathy for this type of patient here.
Situation: Mr. Johnson is chronically late for appointments, if he remembers to show up at all. This throws your schedule off in a big way.
Action: Talk to the patient and explain how his behavior impacts the practice. If the problem continues with the patient showing no interest in being more respectful of your schedule, you may need to follow proper procedures to dismiss him from the practice. Read more about how to deal with chronic no-shows here.
Situation: Ms. Alton is a busy executive with high expectations. She wants to be seen on shortnotice for non-urgent problems, complains about having to wait five minutes to see the doctor and is incensed about how much office visits cost even though she has excellent insurance and rarely has to pay anything out-of-pocket.
Action: This is a tough one. Explain to this patient’s doctor how she behaves toward the staff. Chances are that she’s as sweet as pie when face-to-face with her provider. This situation may require that the doctor have a little chat with the patient to explain that the staff runs the practice according to certain procedures and that they can’t bend the rules for individual patients – not even for her.
Situation: Mr. Berry is consistently rude, uses profanity and berates the staff when, by all objective measures, they are doing an excellent job in providing service and care.
Action: This patient gets one warning. If his behavior doesn’t change when he shows up for his next visit, follow proper procedures to dismiss him from the practice. Life is too short to put up with this sort of nonsense.
Situation: Mrs. Carlton appears to have an anger problem or possibly a mental health issue and subtly or overtly threatens someone in the office.
Action: In this situation, you don’t take any chances. Contact the police or dial 911 if you feel that anyone in the office may be in danger.