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Toni Talks about PT Today

Be Nice to Your Physical Therapist

Published November 30, 2010 3:54 PM by Toni Patt

I had an unusual experience yesterday. The son of one of my patients said something rude to me. His mother mentioned to him I had two horses. He responded that was two too many to have around. It's been a long time since a patient has deliberately said something rude to me. Most of the time I tell myself the patient had a brain injury and wasn't aware of how it sounded. This time it was a son and he knew exactly what he was saying.

The facility has very strong customer service standards. I couldn't even think about replying. Had this happened anywhere outside of work, I would have had a couple choice responses. At work, I had to keep quiet and continue my treatment despite wanting to cut it short. Obviously that little family unit won't make my top five on the enjoyable-to-work-with list.

There had to be a better way to handle it than saying nothing. I've become very careful with what I say to avoid any misunderstandings. Previous experiences around my department have shown no matter what, the hospital will support the patient. We've had patients and families do things no one would tolerate in the home. Yet, the administrators see no problem with it happening in the facility. Pointing out that this son was an uneducated jerk probably wouldn't have gone over well, even if true.

I don't think anyone will ever understand why people say some of things they do. The majority I come in contact with seem to engage the mouth before the brain. I have trouble with someone knowingly saying something rude, especially to someone caring for a loved one. I'm sure I have several not-nice thoughts at work. I keep mine to myself. I'm going to think about this and think about this until I come up with an acceptable I-should-have-said for next time.

4 comments

I know this is a very old post, but I have to respond to Dean's comment anyway.  I am the mother of a child who has been in PT for nearly ten years.  I always take it as a good sign when a therapist tries to get to know us on a personal level.  My son has formed a close bond with a few of his therapists over the years, which has helped him progress all the more.  The impersonal, "business - only" therapists like Dean described are ones we fire after a visit or so.  It is quite possible to get to know patients on a personal level without "blathering on about yourself."

That said, Toni, it is possible to stand up for yourself without being rude back to the offender.  Something along the lines of, "That may be too many for you, but not for me!" with a friendly smile may suffice.  You could also say calmly but firmly, "I'm sure you didn't mean for that to sound as rude as it did."  That will likely take are of the rudeness.  Good luck.

J B February 25, 2013 5:50 PM

The woman knew I had horses because she asked me what I was doing for Thanksgiving. I said I was spending it with my horses.  End of conversation.  

Maybe the lesson here is get all the information before commenting.

t November 30, 2010 7:00 PM

Dean,  hold your horses here.  Lot's of data to support that transparency to patients and humanizing care leads to better patient outcomes.  Several studies support the idea that patients who "like" their providers and believe their providers have legitimate empathy for them will achieve better outcomes.  Secondly a work place that has some (not all) tight connections to the personal lives of the employees leads to less turnover, willingness to push through struggles, commitment to the team and overall higher engagement.  

Quoting you here:

 ""The man may be dealing with some resentment that instead of treating his mother, you were blathering on about yourself. Who cares? If you want the respect that comes with your title of "Doctor", which you say you do, then start behaving like one. That is the coaching I would give if you were my employee""

.....and this is exactly why I nor any of my highly engaged staff would ever work for you for very long.

Clinical excellence and unsurpassed customer service win every time.  A sustainable competitive advantage.

ab

Andrew Bennett, , Physical Therapist TexPTS November 30, 2010 4:45 PM
TX

Why did your patient know you had 2 horses? Why are you telling patients about your personal life? You often mention how you keep a professional detachment with your patients. It appears you didn't this time.

Maybe the lesson to be taught is not for the son of your patient. Maybe it is yours to learn. Keep your personal life personal whilst at work.

The man may be dealing with some resentment that instead of treating his mother, you were blathering on about yourself. Who cares? If you want the respect that comes with your title of "Doctor", which you say you do, then start behaving like one. That is the coaching I would give if you were my employee.

Dean

Dean Metz November 30, 2010 4:31 PM

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