I personally feel these callers do not intentionally set out to be rude and to make our lives hard. By the time they have reached us, most of the time, there has been a series of events that have led to frustration, and the caller just wants to know they are being heard. It does nothing but increase their frustration if the nurse does not take a moment to really listen to their concerns. When I get one of these callers, I stop, take a deep breath and give them a moment just to be heard. The next step that I have found to be effective is to apologize. Sure, I have nothing to apologize for personally, but I want the caller to know that I am sorry they have not been treated the way they feel they should have. If I can then fix the issue for them, I do. If I cannot, I explain to them why I can’t, and at the same time, offer them some advice on how they can approach the issue for the best resolution possible. All the while, I assure them that their concerns will be documented and encourage them to follow up with their physician’s office the next business day.
One of the worst things the nurse can do is say, “I know how you feel”. Unless you have walked in that person’s shoes, you could not possibly know how they feel. We also need to remember, that even though we may have experienced similar circumstances, we are not the caller, and everyone handles every situation different. Sharing personal information about having gone through similar situations can sometimes be appropriate if you think it will reassure that caller and make them not feel so isolated, but never give them advice that would contradict protocols or procedures.Also, never give advice that does not show cohesiveness with their physician's office.
Dealing with problem callers is very draining mentally and emotionally, but after all, when we took the Florence Nightingale pledge as nurses, we promised to do our best to care for our patients. Even though no one likes these kinds of calls, we need to stop and remember these are people with real needs, or they would not be calling. What seems minor to us, could be a mountain to them.
Wishing everyone a healthy, blessed 2014. Make it year to make a difference to someone.