There is no room for not caring in the healthcare field. This is not my opinion, this is a fact. And Frankly my dear, it’s not OK to not give a damn. Caring is one of the biggest parts of the job yet more and more I find myself face to face with an alarming level of apathy. I understand why it happens, in healthcare you are dealing with a specific population, the sick. You’re rarely going to treat a patient who isn’t coming to you with an issue, maybe with the exception of annual check-ups in a PCP’s office. So day in and day out you are responsible for fixing someone’s elses problem. To me working with the public in this way requires the highest level of customer service. I believe that is what patient care is, customer service on super steroids. There is no such thing as going “above and beyond”, there should be no above or beyond just what needs to be done getting done. And even that is enough, getting the job done is not enough. Doing the job well while creating a level of trust with your patient is crucial.
Here are some examples of what I have run into that rub me wrong..
Not using your name. This covers a lot of area. I hate calling an office and when I get a receptionist the greeting is, “Dr. X’s office”. When you call our office I answer the phone, “Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening Thank you for calling xxxxx My name is Jill how may I help you?” Now I understand that is long-winded so I will lower the expectation, just give me your name. In healthcare I believe we should be held accountable for what we are telling our patient’s, how is that possible? By putting our name on it. This also applies to nurses and technologists, anyone who comes in contact with a patient should be introducing themselves. If you are speaking to this patient you are now involved in their care, even if it is on a small level, own it. It is the polite thing to do and more importantly it is the right thing to do.
Negative Talk. What I mean by this is, when we are unable to do something for a patient I do not focus on what we CAN’T do, I focus on what we CAN do. I will call an office for something, like clinical notes let’s say, if they are not ready I get that but give me an ETA. Don’t just answer the phone without giving me your name, say they are not ready and hang up on me. Crap, I am not even your patient but now I know I wouldn’t want to be. Instead, how about this.. A patient calls and wants to schedule a dexa scan (this is not a test we do).. Some offices would say “Sorry we don’t do dexa scans” and be done with it, well that doesn’t really help this patient does it? Ok so maybe we can’t do the scan but I can at least educate them and lead them in the right direction. “At xxxxx we specialize in MRI and CT so unfortunately we do not have the equipment for the test you require. May I suggest you call your referring Doctor’s office to find out if there is a facility they like to use for this type of test.” That was not that much more work but here is what it does for that patient, it lets them know what we can do for them if they ever need us in the future and it keeps them from chasing their tell for the next hour. A patient could spend an hour or more calling around to different facilities trying to find out who does the test they need when quite often their doctor’s office knows which facility does what and is able to advise them cutting out all the work. If that is not the case, they are no worse off but at least you tried to make things easier for them.
Defensiveness and back talk when met with a difficult patient or circumstance. You cannot take things personal in this field!! I cannot stress that enough to people, and that rings true for any career that requires you to work directly with the public. Our patients are sick, they are in pain, they just got done with a round of chemo and now we are calling them wanting them to list all the surgeries they have ever had. They are worn out and worn down and entitled to a bad day, do not take it personal. And in some cases you get the patient who truly does just have a difficult personality to handle, I think some people enjoy arguing for sport. That’s fine, but don’t get pulled in. It still isn’t personal, it has nothing to do with you, none of it does, these patient’s don’t even know you. And no matter how difficult or rude they might be they still deserve your best. Every single patient deserves your best.
This is a topic I have felt strongly about since starting in this field 5 years ago. I think everyone has had to deal with a jaded healthcare worker at some point or another and to me there is no greater crime than complacency in this field. It is not fair to those we serve, if you’re done and you have had enough, then move on. Go on to the next thing, this is not the kind of work you do for a paycheck, at least it isn’t supposed to be.