De-escalating an Irate Patient


1.    The first order of business is to get a screaming patient away from other patients who are within ear shot..  An irate patient wants everyone to hear his or her complaint.  If you do not fear physical harm, invite the patient away from public areas.  Try to make it neutral.  (Don’t use your office if possible – the implied power could actually make the customer more irate.)

2.    Focus on diffusing the anger.  Acknowledge that the patient is unhappy.  Remain calm and use a low, controlled tone of voice.  Do not shout back at the patient.  Control your body language.  Don’t give advice or orders.  Never touch an angry patient.

3.    After you have acknowledged the patient’s anger, wait and listen.

4.    If at all possible, work to a resolution of the anger before the patient leaves.  Sometimes no resolution will be acceptable to both parties, but at least the issues have been heard.  Giving in to a patient’s unreasonable demands is not a healthy way to resolve the issue.

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