The vast majority of your patients come in and out of the pharmacy without a lot of fanfare. They are pleasant, complaint, and grateful as they come in to fill their prescriptions or get advice about their medications. Even those who are a bit indifferent and passive are simple enough to deal with. Now and then however, someone comes through who is angry, upset, or even combative. That one challenging patient out of a hundred or more can create a large amount of stress and put a real damper on an otherwise great day. So, what do you do? Here are some tips for coping with difficult patients that can help you make the best out of a tough situation.
First and foremost, be compassionate to those who come into the pharmacy with a chip on their shoulder. They are very likely stressed out, worried, or feeling powerless about the medical situation that brought them to your pharmacy in the first place. Offer them kindness, even in the face of anger.
Let Them Know They are Heard
Often, letting a difficult patient know that they are heard and understood can make a great difference in their attitude. Allow them to say their piece, repeat their concerns, and commiserate where appropriate. When they see that you are listening to their issues and attempting to resolve the problem, they are more likely to calm down and be a little more pleasant and rational.
Keep Your Reactions Under Control
Remember that most of the time, angry words and actions are more about the speaker than they are about you and your performance. Though lashing out and reacting in a manner similar to what you are confronting is tempting, your calm reaction can often soothe your patient and make the interaction more enjoyable for the both of you.
Many times, patients are difficult because they feel as they have little control over a situation. If they are angry about the price of a needed medication, offer find out if there is a more affordable option for them or a program that will help with the cost. When your location doesn’t have their medication in stock and that has them upset, offer them the option of transferring to another pharmacy rather than waiting for the shipment to arrive. Sometimes, giving them a choice that lets them feel as if they have some power can make a world of difference.
Give Them Grace
Often, the next time a difficult patient comes in, they will have a better attitude and even apologize for previous actions or interactions. Forgive and forget, even if you don’t get an apology. Remember that everyone can have a bad day and behave badly due to outside circumstances. Try to think of a time that you lashed out at someone when it was undeserved and give them the grace that you would like for yourself.
Coping with difficult patients doesn’t have to ruin your day. Manage the situation as best you can, then move on with your day and leave the interaction in the past. Of course, if you ever feel unsafe when dealing with an angry or belligerent patient, don’t hesitate to call for help. Management or even the police may be required to diffuse a situation that has become volatile. But much of the time, a little kindness and compassion can turn a bad situation around.