How to Deal with Rude Patients When You Work at a Front Desk

How to Deal with Rude Patients When You Work at a Front Desk

Front desk healthcare employees see the best and of course, rude patients. Health problems take their toll on patients physically as well as emotionally, which may cause them to lash out rude or aggressive ways. While this behavior is sometimes understandable, it is never acceptable to make you feel unsafe in your work environment. So, here are some tips to help diffuse a situation where a patient is rude to you at the front desk. 

Getting Them Talking

Often patients feel they are not being heard and may raise their voices or act offensively to get your attention. Engaging them in conversation can help you to understand what the patient really wants and can also prevent them from acting out aggressive behaviors.

Keep the conversation light and show empathy toward your patient’s situation. Sometimes, all a patient wants to hear is that you understand their frustration and are taking steps to help them cope with their health problems. 

Keep Calm 

Rudeness can often trigger reactions that can escalate a situation. When a patient yells or acts out, it can make you feel unsafe or threatened. To diffuse a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, it is essential to remain calm. 

Remaining composed during a stressful situation can help you to retain control and calm the patient. Before responding to a patient’s inappropriate actions, take several deep, slow abdominal breaths to help relax and focus yourself. 

Do Not Argue

An angry or rude patient will not respond well to logic, no matter how much it makes sense to you. When they are upset, their stress response is heightened, making it difficult to control themselves. Arguing with the patient can cause the situation to deteriorate to a point where the patient may become aggressive or leave the medical facility potentially putting their health at risk. 

As the receptionist, you represent the staff and institution you work for, and it is your job to maintain a professional facade no matter the situation. Do not raise your voice, keep a calm, even-toned voice when speaking and avoid coming off as condescending. 

Use Neutral Language

During an altercation with a rude patient, words may be said that can come across as negative or can be easily misunderstood. It is critical that you pay attention to the language you use so you can communicate effectively with the patient. 

Words that assign blame or have a negative tone can cause the patient to respond aggressively. Use positive or neutral language, to speak with your patients regardless of the language they use with you. Positive language has the power to change how your brain responds to stress and threatening situations. Positive language should clearly explain what can be done, suggest alternatives, and be encouraging and empathetic. 

Apologize Without Admitting Fault

The doctor may be running behind schedule, or the patient may not have made an appointment, but no matter who was at fault, it is important to apologize to the patient even if they are being rude. Often an apology is all it takes to deescalate a situation; however, to avoid any potential litigation, it is essential to apologize without admitting fault.  

A safe apology helps you to communicate empathy or regret without admitting that you were in the wrong. To make a safe apology, state the facts of the situation, and apologize for the effect that the situation had on the patient. For example, “I’m sorry for the frustration this situation has caused you.”

You can also follow up on your apology by asking the patient how they would like the situation to be resolved and find a way to compromise. 

Move to a Different Location

Occasionally, a rude patient will “play up” to the other patients in the reception area to gain more attention to their problem. This can make it difficult for the rude patient to back down without feeling embarrassed. 

In this case, it may be a good idea to move the conversation to an alternate location so the patient can recover themselves with some dignity. However, should this option present itself, always make sure that the front desk is covered by another employee, and ensure there is another person in the room with you and the patient to avoid any potential legal consequences.

The Wrap Up

Dealing with rude patients is an unfortunate part of a front desk job. But there are ways that you can manage unhappy patients to avoid conflict and come to a peaceful solution. 

Try some of these simple and effective ways to communicate with your patients for increased patient satisfaction and a more pleasant work environment. For your own well-being, learn to shake off these types of confrontations and refocus, so you can assist the other patients in the waiting room.  

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