It is something all pharmacists have to deal with at one time or another – an angry patient. There are always things that can go wrong when dealing with patients, and some will get upset and lose their temper. It could be that a medication is not in stock, more authorizations are needed, slowing the process, or staffing shortages cause longer wait times.
The trigger doesn’t have to be connected to the pharmacy at all – there may be something going on in patients’ personal lives that can cause their temper to flare at just a slight provocation. If you are confronted with an angry patient, what is the best way to handle the situation? Here are a few tips.
Let them have their say, and just listen. You may be tempted to interrupt, to get to a solution as quickly as possible because odds are you have heard their complaint many times before, but in this situation, this is counterproductive. You need to let the person vent.
And be aware of your body language because this can make a bad situation worse. Patients will not be happy if they see you standing rigid with your arms folded and lips pursed, or see you looking around or at your watch. Make eye contact with patients and nod your head occasionally to show you are following what they say. If you don’t understand something, question them about it.
After patients are finished talking, repeat the gist of their complaint back to them using the words they used. This will show you are making an effort to understand and deal with their problem. It is important to repeat what they said accurately, so as not to give the impression you are trying to soft-pedal the problem.
A calm demeanor is contagious. If you stay calm and poised, your composure is likely to rub off, at least a little, onto the patients. The worst thing you can do is become agitated yourself because this will only elevate the tension.
Look at Options
For almost every problem, there are other options open to the patient. For example, if your pharmacy is out of a particular medication, you can order it or offer to transfer the prescription to another pharmacy.
If nothing seems to be working, and the patient is still angry, show your concern by going up the chain of command to resolve the problem.
Get Back to Normal
Once the situation is resolved, make sure there is no lingering animosity. If the patient apologizes, accept it readily, smile and shake the person’s hand.
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