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Four Tips for Dealing with Difficult Physicians

In any job, some people may be tough to deal with. They may be grouchy, nasty, or unpleasant in a variety of ways. What if the difficult person is a physician? Here are four tips for dealing with difficult physicians.

Step back

As in any situation, when another individual is being difficult, it may be tempting to be difficult right back; however, the better response is to step back. If a doctor yells at you or insults your intelligence, don’t mirror their actions, especially around other co-workers. Staying on an even keel is a great way to disarm a doctor…and at the very least, you’ll avoid a conflict that makes both of you look bad.

It’s important to note that this does not imply that you should simply tolerate the difficult or inappropriate behavior. You can say, calmly, ‘I don’t appreciate you speaking to me like that.’ You can walk away silently or invite the person to speak with you when s/he can do so appropriately. You can also stand silently.

Gain a new perspective

Everyone’s job is tough, and sometimes getting a sense of what the other person is dealing with can help the situation. When a nurse finds that a doctor is being difficult, it may be helpful to consider each other’s backgrounds. With nurses, there is often an expectation of empathy, understanding, relieving suffering, and technological expertise. With doctors, there is an expectation of diagnosis and a quick decision about treatment.

It may be helpful for each to try to gain a little more insight. Sometimes, a simple statement like “I know we’re all under pressure…” can be a good starting point for that. But it can also be helpful to start by asking a question that gets to the heart of the issue: “Why did you snap at me today?” At the very least, starting a dialogue like this may improve communication between the two of you overall.

Observe body language

Body language can be very telling. In some cases, it may be a clear sign that someone is dealing with strong emotions; by watching for these signs, it may be possible to deal with the situation before it erupts. If the individual’s body language indicates stress, don’t ignore the signs. It may be helpful to say, ‘You seem really upset. Do you want to talk about it?’

Involve another physician

When the difficult person is a physician, it can be tough to figure out who should address the situation. Employees can go to an administrator or another physician for help. Even if a physician addresses it, administrators shouldn’t subtract themselves from the equation; they should speak with the difficult physician to let that person know they’ve observed a problem.

It’s important to document everything. If a doctor has a habit of abusive, disrespectful, or even illegal behavior, document incidences. If a supervisor doesn’t act, this documentation can be important and helpful when it comes to reporting the information to the doctor’s supervisor or another party.

We’re not difficult

At 365 Healthcare Staffing Services, we specialize in the recruitment and placement of healthcare professionals in per diem, travel, and permanent assignments in healthcare facilities across the country. We’re very easy to deal with, and we’d love to work with you! Give us a call at 310.436.3650 today, and let’s get started.