Essential Business Etiquette for Health Care Workers

by Diane Marcus, Essential Business Etiquette

We have all been in the position to receive health care from getting a flu shot, to having surgery to facing hospice for someone in our family. I have found health care workers to be a unique group of people who show respect and compassion for their patients. Most of us want to find a physician or rehabilitation center that cares about us and our families. Now more than ever before offices and hospitals are becoming more patient centered.

Health care offices need to think about how to keep patients satisfied and keep them coming back. In most metropolitan areas, there is stiff competition for rehabilitation centers, hospitals and individual physician’s offices. Without the patient, these offices would not be in business.

Making a good first impression is essential if these offices want patients to keep coming back. It has been said that we often only have about ten to thirty seconds to make a good first impression. Sometimes we deal with a receptionist, several nurses, the physician and finally the bookkeeper. Each one should smile and be warm and welcoming. Have empathy for the problem the patient has. Try not to be distracted while speaking to them. Give them your full attention.

I receive surveys from organizations wanting to know how I was treated as a customer. Healthcare offices should also consider having a way of tracking patient satisfaction. Was the patient greeted warmly, did the physician address the problem the patient came in for, and was anyone rude during the visit? Employees should know that each and every patient will receive a survey in the mail.

Patient information is private. Use a quiet tone when speaking. Do not talk to anyone in the waiting room. Ask patients to come back into a room behind closed doors. I have had to state my problem for everyone in the waiting room to hear. It can be embarrassing. Nod your head and make good eye contact to show people you understand what they just said. Always address patients using Mr. Mrs. or Ms., never their first names and never call a patient “honey”. It is condescending and very impolite.

Health care workers should wear name tags with their position. Consider color coding uniforms, white for the physician, pink or white for nurses and yellow for the receptionist and bookkeeper. Wear professional shoes, no clogs or sandals. Keep jewelry very simple, wear the minimum amount of make-up and avoid any heavy perfumes. People expect the physician to wear a white coat. If you wear scrubs, make sure they fit properly and do not drag on the floor.

Health care offices are very busy places. Offices have many, many emails to deal with during the day. Personal emails should be sent to the staff’s private email address. Gossip can be a huge problem in any workplace. It should not be tolerated under any circumstances. Follow the office rules your human resources have put in place. Don’t try to “buck the system”. If a rule does not seem fair to you, go through the proper channels to have it changed. Treat everyone with respect and you will receive respect in turn.

Avoid talking about your office when you are out with friends. You never know who is a patient or a supplier to your office and they can’t help but overhear. If you say something negative, it may get back to your boss. Never discuss personal medical information about a patient or vent if you had a bad day if you are out in public.

Occasionally, you may run into a difficult patient. Listen carefully; repeat back what they told you and say, “I understand you are upset about…” Try to put yourself in their shoes and be compassionate. Say, “I’m sorry that happened to you Mr. ____, let me see how I can solve this problem or get you to someone who can”. Never blame someone else in the office for any difficult situation. Take responsibility and tell the patient that you will make sure that never happens again.

People will always forgive you if you make a mistake but they will never forgive you or come back if they have been treated rudely. Usually the last person we see is the bookkeeper. Say thank you to the patient for the payment and say, “It was nice to see you today. Have a good day” and be sure to smile.

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