Friday, November 06, 2009

the customer is always right, even when he wants to kick your teeth in just for doing your job

I've been working A LOT lately. And I recently got a bit of a promotion, which came with my own in-hospital "spectralink" cellphone, pager and responsibility over a lot more stuff. It's stressful, but so fast-paced that I hardly have a chance to think about anything but how I'm going to conversate on two lines at one time (still working on that particular skill).

I think it's going pretty well so far. Except for that one patient whose husband was, um, difficult, and tried to chase me back into my office, rip out all my hair and feed it to me. Basically:

a) His wife had some possibly serious symptoms; the doctor's office wanted to squeeze this woman onto the schedule. I was called in to make sure a spot was held for them, and I did. Despite my assurances, the husband demanded a printout of proof, then did not accept it as valid because it did not list his wife by name. This should have been a warning. Looking back, I estimate that this was about the time the husband heard I was new to the position and decided that my brain was made of horse manure.

b) The husband had a little knowledge (likely caused by a WebMD search) and freaked the heck out when he saw we weren't going to throw everyone else to the back of the line and get her onto an examination table before he had finished parking the car. Every second that went by in the waiting room, he inched closer and closer to the edge.

c) Their doctor gave them an order for a routine (read: non-stat) test, which he presented to the registration desk. He proceeded to rip the registration person a new one because she dared to tell him it didn't match the test he was demanding his wife have.

d) When I found out, I started investigating the discrepancy, contacting the patient's doctor's office (which was closed) via my in-hospital "spectralink" cellphone while running around to different departments trying to track down the correct order on foot. Technically, we should have just done the test the doctor ordered, but something about it seemed off. And if it indeed was an emergency, we wouldn't want to do the wrong test and waste precious time.

e) I came out to the waiting area to get the patient for the test, but got a call on my not-quite-as-big-as-a-Zach-Morris-model phone ABOUT THAT VERY PATIENT. I turned around mid-stride and went to find the answer at my computer.

f) The husband caught this move and decided that I was "taking personal phone calls instead of helping" his wife. He got up and followed me to give me a piece of his mind. Thank God the registration person held him back, then came to warn me that he was irate, because there likely would have been a brawl. I had to be held back myself when I heard he was yelling things like "she's unprofessional!" and "I don't ever want to see her face again!" after I went out of my way to make sure his wife was getting the right test. If I had been allowed a confrontation, I'm pretty sure I would have been fired.

g) The doctor called me back personally with the correct order (it was a stat after all), and thanked me for looking into it. By that time, the registration person calmed the husband down, but that didn't stop him from passing my office door no less than 8 times (who needs to pee THAT much in a 20-minute period?). The kicker? When the wife heard the protocol for an appendix cat scan (you can look it up), she nearly canceled the test.
I get it. When someone you love is sick, everything takes a back seat. Frivolities like getting all the facts before you jump to conclusions go right out the window. And I've been there; my mom has questioned nurses and prevented them from making an error with my brother. But there's a difference between paying attention/asking questions and impeding the process. I was absolutely seething for three or four days over the fact that I went out of my way for this woman and then had to hide in my office for half an hour so I wouldn't get my ass kicked FOR DOING MY JOB.

After my "time out" was over, I had to walk past that couple in the waiting room one last time. It was awfully convenient that the husband looked away as I went by. Normally I'd smile and say something like "take care" or "have a good night," but for this guy I just narrowed my eyes and resisted the urge to kick him.

9 comments:

Madelyn said...

Wow, and I thought dealing with hungry people was bad.

SupaCoo said...

OMG! First of all congrats on the promotion (I think... after reading this it doesn't sound so great). I can't believe that guy! I would not have been able to keep my cool.

Anonymous said...

I commend you for not getting fired. But the worst part about all of this is you'll be ruminating about it for a while. Stuff like that stays on my brain for weeks.

Anonymous said...

There's always someone who is scared and doesn't know how to act in an emergency. These people are a menace so don't let them get to you.

"Never argue with a fool in public; people won't know the difference."

Mark Twain

Guyana-Gyal said...

That man was so scared he didn't know how to behave...he probably is terrible with any sort of emergency...there are some people who just behave badly when stressed, no matter how big or small the problem is.

When people behave badly, if I can keep a cool head, I dole out HEAPS of politeness...and enjoy their reaction.

Cofo said...

You probably should have started a fist fight. I bet you could've taken him.

Kudos for not strangling him, though.

Jon said...

I truly believe that the worst jobs in the world involve customer service. I also firmly believe that the majority of customers have no idea what it's like to provide customer service. If they only knew...

Willowtree said...

I wouldve had to bite my tongue many times not to say - "When your mind comes back, youre going to feel like such an ASS for the way youre behaving right now." And there was a lot of other things I wrote and had to delete, lest I seem - somehow bitter.

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