Working in a medical reception area isn’t always easy. Most patients are friendly and easy to work with; however, there are some patients that can pose more of a challenge.
Patients can be classed as difficult for a number of reasons, ranging from those who are excessively needy to those who are looking to pick a fight with you over a disagreement they may have.
These patients may test the boundaries of your patience, compassion and communication skills. However, it is your job as a medical receptionist to provide the best customer service possible while successfully de-escalating any troublesome situations to the best of your ability, before seeking assistance if needed.
To help you deal with these tricky patients here are the top 5 things you should remember.
1. Engage in Conversation
Many people find going to the doctors stressful. When you are dealing with difficult patients, engaging them in conversation is a good way to help ease the tension and assist in de-escalating the situation.
A crucial thing to remember during the conversation is to be empathetic to the patient’s situation. Try to keep the conversation light and positive while keeping your tone even and kind during the conversation.
2. Remain Calm
If a patient suddenly starts to become aggressive or threatening during their dealings with you, it is normal for you to feel threatened or scared. However, it is important for you to maintain a calm facade.
Remember that in most cases the patient’s actions aren’t intentionally directed at you. Their actions can be a response to how they are feeling about a situation, fears they may have about their health, or as a side-effect of their illness or injury.
Remaining calm during a situation where emotions are heightened will help you keep control and manage the situation safely.
3. Avoid Arguing
When dealing with someone who is upset, it is a common response to raise your voice and match the tone of the person who is upset. However, matching an angry person’s tone can draw you into an argument.
As a medical receptionist, it’s important to maintain your professional façade and avoid raising your voice or falling into the argument trap. Focus on keeping your tone even and respectful, while still providing the best customer service that you can.
4. Watch Your Language
Be careful of the language you use in escalating conversations as some negative phrases can be misinterpreted. For example, “you neglected to” could be interpreted as you saying, “you are incompetent”. “You say” could be perceived as “you’re lying”.
Try to use positive language to communicate your message and attempt to de-escalate the situation.
5. Shake It Off and Keep Going
While incidents regarding difficult patients aren’t common, your ability to refocus and calm yourself down afterwards is a critical skill to master. If you need to, take a few moments to gather your thoughts before going back to reception to take care of the other patients that need your assistance.
If you want to know more about how to correctly handle difficult patients, we offer an online short course called Responding Effectively to Behaviours of Concern. This course will help you learn how to identify disruptive behaviours, plan responses to them and develop strategies to manage the situation while giving priority to the safety of yourself and others.