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10/07/2020    Keith L. Gurnick, DPM

Dealing with Patients Who are Rude to Staff (Tim Shea, DPM)

About 15 years ago, I had an issue with an
adult female patient, a tough and very wealthy
widow and locally well-known philanthropist who
dropped in to my office one day without an
appointment, requesting to be seen for a non-
urgent visit. When we refused her request, she
then demanded her medical records and prior
foot x-rays on the spot. I am sure some of the
readers have encountered this same or similar
challenging situation once or twice in their
careers.

When she was told that our policy was that we
needed a couple of days’ notice to make copies
or her chart and physical copies of her x-rays,
and that we were not able to stop whatever we
were doing to comply with her non-urgent
requests, she made quite a scene in front of
other patients and stormed out of the office,
opening the reception room door so violently
that it slammed into a waiting room chair and
almost injured the patient who was sitting in
the chair at that time. A couple days later, we
sent her records and a 30-day termination
letter dismissing her my practice. I never saw
her again.

About 8 years later, her primary care doctor
referred her back to my office, and she was
given an appointment (our error). I do not know
what her foot issue was. When, my office
manager became aware of this and it was brought
to my attention, I said I would see her. But
my office manager who had to deal with her in
the past told me that if I let that patient
back into my practice, she would quit working
for me. I phoned the referring doctor, told him
I could not see his patient and explained all
the reasons why. We also phoned and cancelled
the patient, who again became quite irate,
mostly because she had no recollection of ever
seeing me before, nor the tantrum she threw in
my office.

To this date, I still have the same office
manager and that same doctor is still one of my
best referring doctors. Rude patients should
be dealt with appropriately. Discharged
patients are like toothpaste and the tube. Once
they are out, they do not get back in.

Keith L. Gurnick, DPM, Los Angeles, CA

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