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How to Deal With a Difficult Patient

Written by Brea Abraham

September 13, 2019

Visiting the dentist can be a big ordeal for some patients, which can generate strong emotions. Experiencing discomfort, having anxiety about a procedure, or becoming upset about a billing error are all situations where a patient may become difficult during their visit. 

We’ve all experienced conflict with another individual at some point in our lives. Conflict is never easy, but it’s especially difficult when it happens at work. 

As a dental professional, how do you act accordingly in these situations when you’re forced to suppress any combative traits that may arise because your job depends on it?

Take a look at these five tips to help deal with a difficult patient in the best, most professional way possible.

  1. Keep Your Composure

As a dental professional, you have a job to do and that’s to provide quality care to every patient. Even if a patient is being difficult, their care should never be compromised. Remember that you’re in control of your emotions and that you must remain professional no matter how frustrating the patient may be.

  1. Listen

Most patients just want to be heard, so listening to them is already half the battle won. Pay close attention to words they emphasize and their body language. Nod when appropriate and make eye contact with them while they vent — this lets them know you’re actively listening and care about what they have to say. 

  1. Be Empathetic

It is crucial to understand why your patient is upset in the first place. You may not agree with their views, but showing empathy allows you to connect with them on a deeper level while working through the problem-solving process. 

  1. Use the Word “Can”

Upset patients don’t want to hear the word can’t. Instead, try using the word can to show them you’re trying to fix the situation. For example, if a patient is upset about a billing misunderstanding, it is best to reassure them of the things you can do for them such as reviewing their benefits with them for clarity. 

  1. Don’t Dwell

Try not to dwell on the situation by taking it too personally. Deal with the matter at hand and move forward with the rest of your day. After all, your next patient deserves the best you that you can be. 

 

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