Patients: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The events described in my blog are based on my experiences as a Receptionist and  Manager. For obvious reasons of privacy and confidentiality I have made certain
changes, altered identifying features and fictionalised some aspects, but it remains an honest reflection of life as a Receptionist and Manager working within the Healthcare  sector.

             Patients come in all shapes and sizes – literary.

In all my years working in the NHS I would actually say that 90% of patients were always courteous, friendly and extremely grateful. There of course were the other 10% those that would complain and were always ready for an argument. Unfortunately these people can spoil any good organisation they come across.

One thing I learnt working within the healthcare sector is that you have to learn very quickly not to be judgemental.

I believe that you should always treat people as you would want to be treated.

I quickly found the best way forward was to gain the trust of the patients. Listen to their needs; get to know them as people – after all everyone is different. Let them get to know you as a person. The trust soon builds up – but it has to work two ways and when it does it works well. The patient won’t push their boundaries and they will trust you to do the best for them – and you do.         

On a daily basis receptionists will come across people from different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs. Receptionists will come across people who are often frightened, anxious, nervous, or just downright rude. That is the nature of the business that we are in.

The key to dealing with these people especially is the rude patients is to remember that there might be a reason why they are being rude – now don’t get me wrong rude is not acceptable – but in some cases these people might be in pain, be worried about what might be wrong with them or perhaps a loved one – maybe worried about the unknown or recently suffered a bereavement. You can’t always see on the outside what is going on in the inside.

But of course there are those patients who are just downright rude – and when I trained new staff the best possible advice I could give them was to try to not to take rudeness personally. Rude people are usually rude wherever they go – it’s not just the Doctors Surgery they keep their rudeness for.

The first rule I would advise a Receptionist when they were faced with a rude patient at the desk would not to answer back. Don’t get involved in a disagreement or argument. Don’t fuel an argument. But it is important to listen to what the patient is saying.

Sometimes a person just needs to let off steam – not right but it happens – and nothing more will fuel an angry person is another person arguing back. So, listen, apologise if the fault was on our part and after a while you will find that the rude/angry person starts to cool down – they have nothing to fuel their anger – and usually the Receptionist will find that the patient will actually end up apologising for their outburst or anger.

Another thing is to sit and think to yourself – this person is not directing this at me “Ann”
they are venting their anger at the “Receptionist” the person sitting in front of them and if someone else was sitting here behind the Reception desk they would be saying exactly the same to the that person. I always found this a good one to remember when someone was being rude to me at the desk.

But if this continues as sometimes it did 3 or 4 times in a morning or afternoon you can soon start to take it personally.  I always would advise a Receptionist if she ever found herself in a situation that she couldn’t handle then she should walk away from it and pass the patient over to someone else to deal with. We all have had to do that at sometime. We all came across situations they we felt was out of our control – but it was the way you dealt with it that was important.

At times we also had to face violent patients – I am pleased to say that our Surgery didn’t have many of these – but when we did it was unpleasant not only for staff but for other patients in the surgery too. In all my time there were only a couple of times we had to call the police – thankfully. But unfortunately there were Surgeries not so far from us that had that had violent patients to deal with on a daily basis.

Another thing I found in my journey from Receptionist to Manager is well-trained staff are confident staff. Often Receptionists are faced with a situation that they are unable to handle. Confident staff can usually defuse a situation before it starts getting out of hand.

I will be sharing some of my experiences and stories when dealing with patients throughout the years in future blogs.


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