We’ve all been there, angry patients can sometimes become aggressive and you’re using every piece of your strength not to shout back. Sometimes as a locum, you’re sorting out a relationship that had been strained before you arrived at the pharmacy, but now you’re the one in the firing line. Regardless of how the situation has come about, you’re now in a confrontation, and you’re the professional in the situation. What do you do? You think, ‘LATE.’
This sounds obvious, but the best way to get to the root cause of any problem is to listen to the other party. How has this situation come about? Were there any misunderstandings as to what was supposed to happen regarding timelines, medicines involved or communications that were expected? Patients can be extremely worried about their situation and more often than not, they aren’t mad at you. They’re mad at their situation. You can only help their situation if you listen to their problem.
Empathy is key to calming a worrying or aggressive situation. As I’ve mentioned above, patients may be in a state of panic regarding their health. They aren't necessarily mad at you. Put yourself in their shoes. What if you were ill and had run out of medicine because you were too ill to collect a repeat prescription. What if this was your mother or son? Whether the patient is wrong at this point is irrelevant. Remember, you’re the professional, so put yourself in their shoes.
It’s up to you to solve the problem. Address the prescription requirements. Carry out further counselling if required. Update patient files where necessary. Get your patient a glass of water or a cup of tea if needs be. I always refer to patients as that, patients. They aren’t customers. The minute we star to refer to patients in our pharmacies as paying customers, that’s the day that we stop going above and beyond.
You’ve Listened, you’ve Acknowledged the situation and you’ve Taken action. Now you need to debrief your patient. Explain to them why you feel that the unfortunate incident came about. Explain to them how they can prevent this scenario happening again. And explain to them how you will help to ensure that this scenario will never happen again. Approach the future as a team, both members understanding the expectations that they have of each other.
Empathy is key when dealing with angry patients. It’s easier to deal with an angry patient if you imagine them being your mother, son, cousin or partner. How would you like them to be helped?
The only way that you can encounter angry patients is if you’re in regular work! You can book regular locum shifts in your area on our locum platform, or you can get in touch with our Recruitment Manager, Thomas, and arrange a careers consultation to find your next permanent job.