Not Another Angry Patient

To help avoid angry patients catching you and your staff by surprise, you should take some time to learn how you can effectively work with unhappy patients.

It is not uncommon to come across a patient who is angry, disgruntled or just plain unhappy with something you did or didn’t do. Nonetheless, there are medical personnel who are unprepared to handle these situations in an appropriate manner.

Being confronted by an angry patient can be uncomfortable and stressful. In these circumstances, one’s natural reaction may be to react immediately by getting irritated, angry or walking away. However, these reactions do not work to improve the situation or resolve the problem.

Instead of getting irritated and angry with patients, there are ways that you can work to acknowledge the problem.

To help avoid angry patients catching you and your staff by surprise, you should take some time to learn how to successfully work with unhappy patients.

For successful interactions with angry or disgruntled patients, consider the following steps:

  1. Stay calm
  2. Acknowledge the patient’s anger
  3. Accept responsibility for the problem
  4. Ask questions
  5. Restate the problem
  6. Develop solutions together
  7. Exceed expectations

Here are a few additional tips for responding to an angry or disgruntled patient, followed by conversation starters:

  • Don’t be dismissive. “Let’s look at this…”
  • Show empathy. “I understand your concern…”
  • Apologize. “I’m so sorry to hear about this Mrs. Jones…”
  • Listen. “I’m listening Mr. Smith. Please go on…”
  • Explain what you are going to do to solve the problem. “I’m going to review your chart, discuss this with Dr. Jones…”
  • Take action and inform the patient. “I will discuss this with Suzzi today and get back to you after 3:00 p.m.”

Lastly, don’t forget that you should always record the incident in the patient’s chart.

By following the above steps and tips, both you and the patient are more likely to have a satisfied encounter. Remember, practice makes perfect and role playing these communication steps is a great way to become more comfortable using them.

For more information on dealing with angry patients, here are two articles that you can reference online:

  1. The Right Words and Phrases to Use with an Angry Customer
  2. The “Difficult” Medical Patient
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