Dealing with a Difficult Patient
No day working in healthcare is without its challenges. Admittedly, many of those challenges pop up when it comes to working with patients with conflicting personalities.
Most – probably upwards of 95 percent – of patients who come to your pharmacy or who are patients at your hospital are easy to work with. They appreciate the work you do and are eager to begin their pharmaceutical regimes. But patients – by their very definition – often are in pain and scared. So much so that it’s often amazing more patients aren’t disagreeable when you work with them.
Below are some pivotal tips on how to work with “difficult” patients:
- It’s a no-brainer, but always remember patients may be in considerable pain. Pain can range from the relatively minor, making someone cranky, to excruciating. We certainly don’t have to tell you how hard it can be to communicate at all, let alone “nicely,” when in extreme pain.
- Your main order of business when interacting with patients is to make sure they understand their medications, how they should be taken and any side effects that could occur. Everything to come follows from that precept.
- As you interact, be sure you look the patient in the eye. Don’t stand with your arms crossed, don’t look at your watch. Your job at this stage is to gain a level of trust with your patient.
- If the patient talks loudly or belligerently, let the patient know you want to hear what he or she has to say, but only if the volume is kept down and voices are courteous.
- Once you start speaking, if the patient interrupts you, remind him or her that you also need to speak and, because you listened to the patient while he or she spoke, you expect the same courtesy as you speak.
- If the patient refuses to – or can’t – calm down, see if you could speak with a patient’s family member instead. If not, let the patient know either (when you’re working in a retail pharmacy) that you’d be happy to speak with him or her when they are calmer, so the patient should return when that is possible, or (when working in a hospital), that you will return when the patient is calm and able to listen.
Have you ever had to deal with a difficult pharmacy patient? What did you do that helped? What did you do that you wished you hadn’t? Does your pharmacy or hospital offer regular training in patient “customer service” techniques? If so, do you find these training sessions helpful?
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