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Should Healthcare Customers Be Expected To Regulate Their Emotions When We Are Burned Out?

burnout compassion fatigue customer experience customer service healthcare leaders patient experience resident experience senior living leaders Sep 20, 2023

Recently I went to get a rental car at a company where I am part of a loyalty program. One of the reasons I like this company so much is because I can get right off the plane and jump right into the car without talking to anyone or having to complete any paperwork.

At this particular airport, it turns out that I did have to talk to a clerk. He was on the phone while I waited to find out what car I was assigned. After he hung up the phone, he gave me the keys to my car.

Upon finding the car, I was confronted with the fact that it was a Hybrid (which I did not reserve). I went back to the clerk to let him know that I hadn't reserved that car but was willing to take it if he could explain to me what I needed to know.

Tiredly, he said he'd find me another car but it was going to take some time on the phone with his manager. I became frustrated and repeated that I would gladly take the Hybrid if I could get a little education on how to fuel it,but would also appreciate a traditionally powered car if that was the fastest option. I mentioned that I'd had a long day of travel and really didn't care: I will take whatever is quickest.

It was then that this clerk looked me directly in the eye and said, "I have almost walked off the job twice today. So you don't want to give me a hard time."


In that moment, I was incensed by the customer service experience I was having. BUT...luckily I had enough insight in that moment to realize I had the power to de-escalate the situation. I said, "Ok, thank you. Please just help me the best you can."

In healthcare and senior living we cannot rely on our patients, clients and family caregivers to regulate their emotions when we are rude and/or not providing the service we promised.

Also, the stakes are WAY higher in healthcare. Lots of time it's life or death.

Most healthcare and senior living leaders will say that their staff would never treat someone the way this rental car clerk treated me. But most people will say that they have had a terrible experience in a healthcare or senior living setting. So something's not adding up.

What is your organization doing to make sure your team is treating patients, clients, residents and family caregivers with respect and patience?

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