Communication, Tension, and Difficult Situations at the Front Desk

Have you ever walked into work excited to start the day and then within 15 minutes you feel completely defeated? Healthcare settings can be some of the most fulfilling yet most challenging places to work.  Your duties and tasks may be your own, but you often rely on others to do their job for you to effectively do yours, thus the term “team effort”.  Perhaps you are constantly waiting for orders to be entered so you can schedule an appointment.  Maybe the appointment times are not long enough, and you encounter an overcrowded waiting room daily. Sometimes every call you answer requires a ton of time, which keeps you from helping those who have signed in.  Patients are upset or not feeling well, and they are taking it out on you. These are all common to medical practices, not the best part of healthcare but a part you can’t always avoid.

How do you handle these stressful times? Do you just keep moving, and addressing one issue at a time? Do you get upset to the point where you can no longer hide your dissatisfaction in the presence of patients/clients? Perhaps you start cutting corners to save time? Maybe you just check out mentally and complete your shift in such a robotic manner that nobody dares speak to you?

We must always approach our work life with an open mind, and a solution-based approach.  If your first thought when faced with a problem is “how can I resolve this?”. “What can I do to make this better?” Or “What way can I impact this scenario positively?” Then you are on the right track.  Avoid initial responses that may add fuel to an already difficult situation.  For instance, the patient may not always be right but that doesn’t mean it is your job to prove how wrong they may be.  You do not have to tell someone why they are wrong or incorrect all the time.  You can just provide the information that will resolve the situation.  It may counteract the patient or client’s original thought, but you did it without adding hostility.  People know when they are wrong, some will retract a statement or even apologize.  However, others may just continue to do be combative, rude, or attempt to prove their point of view.  The direction of the conversations at the front desk are up to you.  You could change the direction and the outcome.  Your responsibility is to make sure the patient has what they need, is provided accurate information, and receives stellar customer service while visiting your facility.

What if the issue of the day does not concern patients at all, but behind the desk there is some unavoidable tension.  On top of that, perhaps it has nothing to do with you! Now what, how can you be the problem solver among your colleagues?  You probably won’t be.  Although, if you remain neutral, proceed as usual, you will not add to whatever conflict has taken place.  If you keep your mood even and your actions professional your energy alone can improve the situation.  Others may find themselves feeling disappointed in a coworker or having had a professional disagreement.  If you do not instigate or seek out information about the situation it will generally resolve itself faster.  When more people get involved in a matter it is equivalent to adding fuel to the fire.

Whether you have struggles with your patients or your coworkers there are always ways to keep the conversation from getting out of control.

  • Keep lines of communication open, listen instead of preparing your response in your head
  • Don’t add to an already hostile environment
  • Don’t feel like you must get involved in every issue, do not become a part of it
  • Be positive and professional in your engagement with patients’ and coworkers
  • Alert management if you witness anything becoming out of control
  • Take a deep breath before you respond during any heated conversation that may arise at work
  • Remember “You are the bridge” and your role in your organization is valuable. Customer service is #1 and it starts with you.

Visit www.medicalreceptionistnetwork.com and join our community on FacebookThe Medical Receptionist Handbook to Success is available on Amazon.  

Medical Receptionists and Patient Interaction

 

Medical Receptionists often have this natural ability to remain calm, professional, and supportive of their patients’ needs.  What if you find those abilities to be more challenging.  Basically, you struggle when patients become upset or dissatisfied, or perhaps you become very defensive or taut during interactions with your clientele.  There is no perfect way to handle certain situations that arise within your office and at the front desk but you can make a difference with your response, reaction, body language and overall demeanor.    One of the most important pieces of advice is to not take it personally.  it is often hard to separate yourself and your feelings from your job responsibilities.  When you have a passion for what you do, you may find it very unnerving when people are not happy with the service and address you directly about it.  On the other hand, if you are not passionate about what you do but work very hard to complete your responsibilities you may be more likely to find yourself on the defense.

How can you keep calm during challenging situations?

Listen-Before you make any assumptions.  Giving your undivided attention during a patient interaction can be very indicative of the potential outcome.

Take Notes-This generally applies if the patient has a complaint or an issue that you must share with another colleague such as a manager or physician.  You want to make sure they have enough information to take corrective actions.  It also improves the communication and reduces the chance of the patient having to repeat the entire situation again.  Lastly, it allows your management or provider the ability to resolve any concerns and be prepared in the event they have to speak directly with the patient.

Express Understanding-Always let your clients know that you understand.  You may not “know how they feel” but you can understand their point, their concern, or their grievance.  Ask how you may help them have a better experience.  Let them know that you will have the situation reviewed by management if needed.

Get Assistance-If you have been working in an office long enough you learn when to recognize a patient who is being abusive or rude.  You know what acceptable behavior looks like for your practice setting.  If you feel threatened or unable to positively respond to a patient it is your responsibility to request help or a witness.  Have management step in when needed.  Do not provoke an unhappy patient.  Remain professional and calm.  You will have more success when you are thinking clearly.

Focus on Solutions-Whenever you encounter a problem in the office you should immediately consider ways to solve it.  Instead of being engulfed with the negative aspects of the issue or the attitude of parties involved, do your best to offer ways to mitigate, resolve, or be supportive in the situation.  This works well with patients and coworkers.  When a fire starts you try to put it out, not spread it.  It only takes one person to be the change. If you can deal with adverse situations without taking things personal you will have a much more fulfilling career.

Most interactions within the medical office are quite cordial, professional, and without many complications.  It is when something does take a turn for the worst or becomes an unusual occurrence that you must be prepared to handle what comes in your direction.  “You are the Bridge” and you have the opportunity and deserve to make the best of every day.

Visit www.medicalreceptionistnetwork.com and join our community on FacebookThe Medical Receptionist Handbook to Success is available on Amazon.