Handling an Angry Patient

Occasionally, working as a pharmacist or pharmacy technician, you are going to encounter someone who is angry about something. When confronted with such a person, how should you respond? What is the best way to deal with such a situation? Here are a few tips.

1. What not to do – Don’t be dismissive.

Telling the patient that he or she really has no reason to be angry, or that his anger is the result of his own error, or that there is really nothing you can do, is a sure fire way to make the situation worse. When the patient is emotional, you want to calm him or her down, not excite the person even more.

2. Show empathy and offer reassurance.

The first thing you need to do is show the person that you are taking his or her claims seriously. Tell the patient something to the effect that, “I understand, and I am going to do all that I can to rectify the situation.” You need to reassure the person that you are on his or her side.

3. Apologize.

If the patient is angry and emotional, an apology will go a long way toward calming him or her down. Again, it is a recognition that you are taking the person and the problem seriously. Even if you feel that you have nothing to apologize for, that is not important at this stage.

4. Listen and ask questions.

Ask the patient for a full description of what happened to cause the problem. Give him or her your full attention, and show that you are listening, by nodding occasionally, for example Ask questions to clarify any information that is not clear.

Often, this in itself is enough to take care of the problem. Often patients become angry simply because they feel that they are being ignored.

5. Explain what you are going to do to solve the problem.

Tell the patient what steps you are going to take to respond to his or her concerns and when you are going to do it. If you can take care of the problem immediately, all the better. If, however, you cannot do anything until a later time, explain this to the patient, and tell him or that you will follow up as soon as you can.

6. Take action and inform the patient.

Look into the problem and do what you can to solve it. Report to the patient exactly what you did and the outcome. It is important also to ask the patient if the problem was handled to his or her satisfaction.

7. Record the incident.

Keep adequate notes on what transpired in your records, and if possible, in the patient’s medical record.

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