Hitting a Nerve

Putting up with abusive patients? That’s not for me.


I’ll put up with a lot in this practice, but I will not tolerate mistreatment of my staff.

Picture of an angry man, blowing steam out of his ears. ALLVISIONN/Thinkstock

Rudeness, while never pleasant, is generally tolerated. Some people just have that sort of personality. Others may be having a crappy day for unrelated reasons. We all have those.

But those who are intentionally abusive of my hardworking assistants aren’t going to get very far here. I have no problem telling them to go elsewhere. (This doesn’t include those with neurologic reasons for such behavior.)

Some doctors are more willing to put up with this than I am. I once shared space with one who routinely told his staff to ignore abusive behaviors. He didn’t want to turn away any potential revenue or risk angering a referring doctor.

I take another view. Life is short, and medical practice is, by nature, hectic. I have little enough time to care for the patients who genuinely appreciate what my staff and I are trying to do for them. People who are abusive and belligerent can find another doctor who’s willing to put up with it. I won’t.

My staff and I don’t expect to be thanked. We all signed up to work here. But we also try to treat patients with concern and respect, and ask the same courtesy in return. Isn’t that the golden rule?

Dr. Allan M. Block, a neurologist is Scottsdale, Ariz.

Dr. Allan M. Block

Abusive patients are difficult to deal with, time consuming, and contribute to staff burnout. The two awesome women who work here deserve better than that. If they’re not happy, I’m not happy. All it takes is one bad person to throw the day off kilter and sometimes affect the care of the next patient in line. That person deserves better, too.

Some will argue that, as a doctor, I should care for all who need my help. In the hospital, I do. I understand that people there generally are scared and hurting and do not want to be there. But in my office I expect at least some degree of civility. We have to be at our best for each person who comes in, and having patients we can work with on a polite level helps.

There’s enough insanity in this job on a good day. People who intentionally try to make it worse aren’t welcome in my little world.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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