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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

My Customer Service Nightmare

Published December 26, 2008 8:49 AM by Glen McDaniel
Why is it many people in healthcare still think it is the one service industry in which "customers" can be treated like trash? 

Recently I went to the doctor for some persistent and generalized itching. I don't have allergies and mentally eliminated everything from contact dermatitis to a food allergy. I was especially concerned because I seemed to have acquired some of the same symptoms my houseguest was having when he arrived a few days before. I decided we both needed to see a doctor who could possibly correlate the symptoms.

My first mistake was choosing a random doctor from my insurance PPO list--because he was the only one who could see us both the same day I called.

The front office staff was capable enough but not stellar, and offered the barest information. I noticed the nurse did not wash her hands and did her initial history by looking at me over her shoulder as she pecked at a computer keyboard. By this time I was mentally shaking my head (if that's possible).

The doctor was casual enough but diagnosed me in 4 minutes flat, wrote a prescription and ordered some labs. He did scold "at your age, you need to do (several very specific tests and procedures)." I thought, at least the cortisone he prescribed couldn't hurt, and might even stop the itching.

The medical assistant did not identify herself and after reading my lab orders basically wrestled my arm into position. She was unsuccessful twice and got indignant when I answered in the affirmative that I had drunk fluids earlier. "I don't think you had enough," she said. "You need to drink lots of fluids when you are coming in for lab work." I asked her to use a butterfly if that would be easier. Then she got really indignant when I told her she still had to wear gloves. Of course, she missed my veins again.

When I asked her to have someone else try, I was banished to the waiting room and after what seemed like years in exile, I grabbed the doctor between patients and told him about my experience. Without apologizing, he ordered a nurse to take my blood and I left covered with Band-Aids.

My nightmare was not over. When I joined my houseguest in the waiting room, he proceeded to share some concerns the doctor had about my health!!! I could not believe that on top of everything, this doctor had violated ethical, confidentiality and HIPAA rules. In several states, what he did is even considered illegal.

What makes this whole scenario more alarming is professionals would consider this kind of service acceptable.


The administration of my hospital seems to have recently discovered a possible direct correlation between patients/customers being "treated like trash" ("employee rudeness," in their words) and this hospital's less-than-stellar reputation since its parent company recently took over management.  Recent remarks by these administrators and our lab director made me realize how extremely fortunate I am to work at a facility that prioritizes teamwork, positivity and EXCELLENT customer service as well as outstanding clinical skills and quality.  Hearing what they have recently told our lab staff reinforces my conviction that I would LOVE to work at this hospital for a VERY long time!

You see, at the hospital's leadership meeting on January 21, a couple of our top executives informed department supervisors that "if you have rude employees, get rid of them.   If you don't, we will; and if we have to do it, we don't need you.  We mean it."  They also mentioned, "If you let someone get away with something two years ago, that does not mean you have to let it go now.  Start today."  

The hospital in Winston Salem by which I was employed immediately after graduating from their MT/CLS program could have definitely used these words of advice from their upper-level administration - "If attitudes do not change, people will have to change."  The resulting positive, supportive job atmosphere would have made an extremely stressful Blood Bank position a million times more bearable for me nearly five years ago, regardless of the heavy workload.  I hear that department's manager is retiring in the near future, though. :)

Anyway, my current GREAT lab director included motivational suggestions for us here at the Danville hospital lab: "I know we are going through a lot of change with our instrumentation and processes.  Everyone needs to maintain a positive attitude to make this transition (from LXI 725/LX20 PRO to DXC general chemistry analyzers) as smooth as possible.  We will have some rough days ahead, and trying to make the best of it is appreciated.  Please use your best CUSTOMER SERVICE (my capitalization for emphasis!) skills when interacting with Beckman Coulter service personnel, coworkers, and nursing.  You can make someone's day with a kind word." :)

Stephanie Mathis, MT(ASCP), Generalist - Clinical Laboratory Scientist, Danville Regional Medical Center January 25, 2009 2:37 AM
Danville VA

Wow, what a horrible experience, that being said I think this bad attitude to customers is not limited to health care, but is rampant in all service areas.

Glenn, Molecular Biology - Dr. , Hinsdale Hosp. December 29, 2008 4:55 PM
Hinsdale IL

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