Original Post: November 9, 2013
“If I hurt your feelings in any way I just want you to know from the bottom of my heart that I don’t care.” Author Unknown
The world is tired of people. Tired of serving them. Tired of pleasing them. Tired of being polite! We see this everywhere but are still surprised when volunteers, public servants, or health care professionals disrespect people.
I experienced this firsthand during a recent doctor’s visit. As man approached the receptionist, she acknowledged him by shouting, “What are you here for?” Stunned by her rudeness, everyone looked up as he, in turn, answered her in a quiet and controlled voice. Ignoring obvious social cues, the receptionist loudly repeated the purpose of his appointment. Those of us who understood simple courtesy looked away to minimize his shame. Others, fully engaged in his private affairs and unconcerned about the rules of protocol and etiquette, gawked or laughed as they waited to see what would happen next. To their disappointment, he maintained his composure, finished his business and took his seat.
It takes very little to destroy another person’s dignity. An offensive greeting in an intimate setting is perhaps the worst form of public humiliation. How sad that some medical personnel and other guardians of privacy information are not polite or discreet when serving patients and customers! According to Dr. Jenna Ward, senior lecturer in organizational studies at York University, “Most medical receptionists receive little training in handling people or in diffusing high-pressure situations. Yet, they are the stitching that holds a practice together, emotionally and administratively…mistakes could result in serious health implications for the patients.” Thankfully, professionals can learn common courtesies and appropriate behavior through protocol, etiquette, and customer service training.
So, how should we respond when we come upon a rude medical receptionist? And, what should we do if our business is broadcast to the waiting room?
- Get a copy of The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and make sure you understand your rights. HIPAA requires that providers, such as doctors, nurses, pharmacies, hospitals and nursing homes keep your health information private, even at the check-in window.
- Remember, you deserve civility. Proper protocol and etiquette demand it. The receptionist should be friendly and polite at all times. You should not be made to feel that your presence is a burden, period.
- Follow the posted instructions. It is annoying to answer the same question repeatedly when a few moments to read the signage would answer most routine questions. After reading, if you need assistance, ask. Simply state that you HAVE read but have further questions!
- Guard your privacy. If your response is better answered in private, you can say, “I would rather not answer that here. But, if we can speak privately, I will gladly provide the information you’re requesting.” Alternatively, state you would rather discuss your health and medications with the doctor in a more private setting. Then, wait for further instructions or request to see a manager. Yes, even doctor’s offices have managers and supervisors!
- Acknowledge the breach. If you are subjected to loud or embarrassing questioning, quietly state you would like your information to be kept confidential and not discussed in a public area such as the waiting room.
- Don’t return rudeness. A courteous response will lend to your credibility if you are forced to complain about the problem. Others will also attest to the fact that you did not do anything to provoke ill treatment.
- Inform your physician. They know the value of a good reception and cannot afford to lose patients because of ill-mannered or discourteous front desk personnel. Keep in mind, more than one person has completed medical school! If the problem persists, take your business elsewhere.
Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are. ~Author Unknown