'I hate this dental patient.' You aren't alone

Most people in the dental profession have said it at one time or another. "I hate this patient." It's OK. It's natural. The trick is to face your feelings, know why someone pushes your buttons, and learn how to deal with it.

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Most people in the dental profession have said it at one time or another. "I hate this patient." It's OK. It's natural. The trick is to face your feelings, know why someone pushes your buttons, and learn how to deal with it.

You feel it and you want to say it out loud, but it isn’t professional to do so. Well folks, this is it. This is your chance to be honest with yourself. You can say it now, “I hate my patient.”

Wow. Do you feel a sense of release? Probably not. Why? Because you may have already shared this sentiment with your colleagues or family. It wasn’t building up like a volcano ready to erupt. But then, it does, with lava spewing in an upward trajectory and flowing down the mountain. You’re wondering, “Why should I take the time to lay these cards on the table?” Put simply, because you need to. You need to be honest about the people you take care of. Don’t be fooled. If you hate someone, it can be a patient care issue.

Don’t get all politically correct on me and read that the wrong way. I’m not proposing that you tell you patients how you really feel about them. (That could end some careers pretty quickly!) But you need to be aware of what it is that causes some patients to press your buttons and behave like a bad rash, one that you keep scratching to relieve the itch, but it just gets worse and worse.

I suggest taking the time to ponder these nine questions:
1. Are they always running late for your appointments?
2. Do they ever say thank you when you’re done with their treatment?
3. Do they complain … every … single … time … they are in your chair?
4. Do they talk rudely on their cell phone and waste your time when you need them to open their mouth?
5. Do they look down on you as if you aren’t good enough?
6. Do they simply give you the creeps?
7. Are they demanding and unrealistic?
8. Do you dread seeing their name on your schedule?
9. Can you pinpoint why you don’t like them?

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When patients get under your skin, you owe it to yourself to figure out why they bother you so much. I’m not saying to dump the patient, as tempting as that may sound. What I am saying is that sometimes figuring out what you don’t like about someone can be the start of solving the problem.

People push buttons. Some get a thrill out of it, and others don’t realize they’re doing it. There isn’t much you can do if you want to keep a patient. Always “delighting the customer” is not an easy path. The best strategy is to protect yourself and figure out why a patient bothers you so much. Find out if the person is that way with everyone in the practice. It might not be just you.

Personally, I can’t tolerate rude and obnoxious behavior. But sometimes in the “real” world I have no choice. I used to say, “They aren’t paying me enough to be abused like this.” But let’s be honest. Sometimes you have to put up with nonsense if you want to keep your job. Trying to keep patients happy is about keeping your job. Be aware of your triggers. Be aware if it is just the dynamic between you and that patient. Finally, be aware that sometimes you’re just going to hate your patient.

If you’ve had any experiences with patients you strongly dislike, comment here or shoot me an email at diana@discussdirectives.com.


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New Lisa NewburgerLisa Newburger, LISW-S, aka Diana Directive, is not afraid to tackle difficult topics for dental professionals with humor and aplomb. Her entertaining workshops are available for conferences and association meetings. Writing for DIQ since 2010, her “in-your-face” style of presentation and writing will make you smile, or perhaps shock you into taking action. Check out her website at discussdirectives.com.

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