Lately I’ve noticed a disturbing trend, healthcare providers that don’t take the time to actually listen to their patients. Or providers that act more like bullies than providers. I’m not sure when it became acceptable for providers who we PAY to no longer listen to what we as patients have to say and do their own thing. I am not sure when it became acceptable that we as paying patients are just supposed to accept what is told to us and take it as the rule. But it has to STOP! When you live with any kind of chronic Illness you know your body and what is going on with it and you know when something is wrong! And when you report those findings you expect something to be done. You never expect to be completely blown off and treated like you are crazy.
I can’t even begin to count the number of times recently that I’ve heard from a chronically ill patient who’s provider did not listen to them or worse totally blew them off. I’ve heard of this practice more than is acceptable, so today I want to share with you some tips for when or if this should happen to you. And more importantly I want you to know that this is NOT a trend we have to accept. In fact this is a trend we need to put a STOP to NOW. We as patients should never have to worry about what our providers will say or think of us. We should be able to be to present our problem to our providers and know that we will get some kind of possible solution or treatment plan in return. That being said let’s talk about what we as patients can do when we encounter a bad provider.
Before I discuss how to resolve some common issues with providers you may see I want to give you a couple of tips first. When you are reporting a problem with any part of the care team it is important that you do so with as little emotion as possible. In these situations it is easy to let your emotions get the best of you. But if you are able to report the issue without being super emotional it will generally have a better outcome. Also, you need to remember that your providers are people too. So try to not name call, point fingers or use sweeping allegations. And probably the most important thing to remember when you are having any problem with a provider is to keep written documentation of the situation. If you are able to provide written details of what happened and when, you are more likely to get more respect and get a more swift answer. Now that you have those tips let’s look into some scenarios and what you can do to handle them.
1. The office nurse/medical assistance with a bad attitude. Let me just say that as an RN I know that there will be days that we have a bad day. But a provider on any level should never take that out on a patient. So if you run into a nurse who never seems to take your issue seriously, or takes it upon herself to downplay the issue at hand when presenting it to your physician there are a couple things you can do to resolve the problem!
— A. Take it up with the nurse - This should always be the first plan of action. You should always try to talk to the nurse about the issue at hand and explain nicely that you don’t feel like they are relaying the proper information to the dr, or that they aren’t taking the problem at hand seriously enough. You should always give her the opportunity to right her wrong. If she is unable to right her wrong you will feel to follow the next step in the chain of command.
— B. Contact the office manager or nursing director - Every office is going to be run differently in some large clinics there will be a nursing director while other small clinics may only have an office manager. Either way this will be the next person in the chain of command if you feel like your problem with the nurse is not being taken care of. Just like I’ve mentiones before try to present the problem with written documentation and as calm as you possibly can be. This step may take some time after you report it because they will need to do some investigating. So try to be patient.
2. Your physician/Nurse Practioner/Physicans Assistant is not listening to your complaints or not providing the care you believe you deserve - Sadly this happens more than I would like to admit and like the other issues we will discuss there are a couple different ways that this can be handled. When this happen there are a couple different ways to go about handling it but as I’ve said before, make sure you have have good written documentation before voicing a complaint.
— A. Talk directly to the provider. As I noted above, it is always best to try and work out any issues with the person directly. When speaking to the provider it is important that you are calm, and that you express your complaints as directly as possible. It is also a good idea to have a written list of your complaints that you can hand to the provider should they want it. Make sure that you give them the same respect that feel you deserve. If they are not open to the discussion there is another route you can go.
— B. Contact the office manager of the clinic &/or the head physician of the clinic. If you speak to your provider and they were not receptive you have every right to go up the chain of command. First, I would start by speaking to the office manager. They are familiar with dealing with patient complaints and will often be very receptive, and will often work with you to settle the problem at hand. If that is not helpful, you can also request to speak to the head physician of the clinic. If this is not helpful you have every right to get a second opinion, which I will talk about more in depth later.
3. Part of the hospital care team is not fulfilling their responsibility - Dealing with a problem in the hospital is a little more tricky as there isn’t always one person who can handle the complaint completely. The rule of thumb is to follow a basic chain of command.
— A. First, try talking to your bedside nurse about whatever issue you may have! If you are having problems with your nurse aid or with someone from one of the ancillary departments the bedside nurse should be able to handle it. Also if you don’t like the way the bedside nurse is treating you, or if you have a problem with how she is doing something, LET HER KNOW. It could be that she didn’t realize she was doing something in a way that you don't like. In most cases this conversation will fix the problem at hand. If not, then you will need to speak to the charge nurse. Also, if you do not feel comfortable talking to the nurse about something she is doing it is okay to go around her and talk to the Charge nurse. Many people do not know this, but when you are in the hospital you have every right to FIRE THE BEDSIDE NURSE if you feel you can not get along or she is not listening to your needs despite your request.
— B. Conversation with the bedside nurse did not resolve the problem. If the conversation with the bedside nurse did not fix the issue at hand so the next step will be to speak to the charge nurse or the nursing director for that area. The charge nurse is an extension of that areas administration and usually can help you handle any problems you may have with the nursing staff, an ancillary team member ( PT, OT, respiratory care etc), or even with physicians. If they can’t help you they will most likely help guide you on who you need to talk to next. There are departments in every hospital that deals with patient complaints. So if you feel like the problem was not handled by speaking with the the charge nurse or floor directors then you might seek out that office.
These are not examples of all the potential problems you might run into, but it is a good overview. One point I do want to address further is that you have the right at any time to FIRE A PROVIDER, or seek a second opinion at any time. If you feel that you and your current provider can not see eye to eye or that he is not treating you properly, as part of your patient rights you can choose to fire them. You are paying them to get good care. And if they are not doing that you have the right to fire them. One warning I will give you though, if you do want to fire a provider but need to see someone in that same clinic, (For example there is only one rheumatology clinic at your hospital), you need to get in touch with the office and find out the protocol to do this properly. If you don’t follow the rules they require, you could end up with no provider at all.
The other option I want to touch on is SEEKING A SECOND OPINION. Seeking a second opinion is also part of your patients rights. If you feel that you are not getting good care or if you feel that the provider is not listening to what you are telling him, you should seek a second opinion. My suggestion would be to seek a second opinion in another clinic first. This may require you to go to another hospital so make sure you always check with your insurance first. If you don’t have an option to see someone in another clinic you need to contact your providers office and ask how they recommend you getting a second opinion within their clinic. I want to throw one last thought in before I conclude this article. It is always a good idea, if it’s possible, to take a responsible friend or family with you to appointments. You should make sure you choose someone who will understand the medical jargon and is even tempered. It would not be wise to take someone who has a hot temper in case the situation should get heated. Having that extra person with you helps to make sure you get all your questions answered and understand what the orovider told you. As well as acting as a back up should you need to file a complaint against the provider
I hope all the information I have provided you is helpful. It makes me so sad to see the high number of people who do not feel like they are getting the care they deserve. Physicians/Providers should never be allowed to bully you or treat you in a condescending fashion. Patient relations or patient interaction is big part of their job. As I’ve said before we are paying these people to help us get through some of the worst and most vulnerable times in our lives. That alone should make providers be more helpful and respectful. But that’s sadly not the case. Just like we deal with people outside the medical world who we don’t necessarily mesh with, the same will happen with people in the medical field. It is just a natural thing. That being said please never stay in a provider-patient relationship where you feel you are not being treated properly or listened to. Just like any other relationship, the patient-provider relationship is one that needs to be a healthy, open, and beneficial relationship. Your health journey is just that, YOURS! So stand up for yourself and don’t allow providers to treat you poorly!