Happy Hump Day

A close friend, and Vision Therapy graduate, asked me recently what I like most about my job.  My answer was simple:

The people.

When that same friend asked me to identify one of the greatest difficulties and/or frustrations in my job, my answer was again:

The people.

If you work with people long enough, there will inevitably come a day where someone misunderstands your words, misinterprets your intentions, or possibly blows your actions completely out of proportion, and levels a complaint. The result being a cargo of blame being placed squarely on your shoulders. When I meet new therapists and am asked for for advice on the subject, my thoughts tend to be a threefold:

  • Don’t talk, just listen
  • Do not defend yourself under any circumstances
  • Learn from the experience and make it better next time

If you’re anything like me, or if you care even one small iota about your patients and the care they receive in your office, those three pieces of advice are tough to swallow. Even writing them was tough, but stay with me.

Don’t Talk, Just Listen

Someone complains about you and let’s face it, your actions may have been misconstrued, your words may have been misinterpreted, and your compassion may have mistaken as weakness in a skill set. The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter, because it happened. In order to be successful in processing the complaint and to help with moving forward, listen completely to gather all the information.

Do Not Defend Yourself

I know, this one is tough, especially when things you’re hearing are tough to listen to.  I think human nature dictates we stand up and say “no, no, no…that’s not what happened or that’s not what I meant.” Please don’t do that, because trust me, it’s like pouring gasoline on a fire and the last thing you want to do is make things worse.  This is not a situation of judge and jury, and when your doctor gets involved, feel free to explain your side, but under no circumstances should you engage in a debate with a patient/parent regarding different perceptions inside your office.

Learn From The Experience

Vision Therapy is all about understanding the information and making a change so the outcome is more desirable. In terms of patient complaints sometimes this means you need to eat it, sometimes it means you need to own a mistake, and sometimes we just chalk it up to a difference in personalities which do not suit the task at hand.

And So…

By now you can probably figure out why I chose this topic – someone complained about me to the doctor.  Without getting into too much detail, I will say I spent an hour of my day today biting my tongue, and hard. Oddly enough, this is a family who I’ve gone out of my way to help which has included taking them out to dinner (which they complained was not spent in full discussion of their child), contacted the school OT on a few occasions to help facilitate services and special accommodations (which they complained contained not enough effort), and even tried to counsel the young patient on dealing with kids at school who he finds challenging (which the young man told his mother embarrassed him).  Mom even went so far as to say she’s been keeping all of these thoughts inside since October, and now had to let them out, which was odd because I haven’t worked with this young man for several months. He’s been seeing one of my constituents since mid-September.

Ok, deep breath.

Tomorrow is a new day.

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Posted on January 11, 2017, in From My Perspective.... Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Robert, anyone who spends even 5 minutes with you gets to know very quickly what you are about. I am so sorry that this happened. Know that Bob and I love and respect you. You have been a role model for me on many occasions, and I am a better therapist for having known and worked alongside of you. .

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  2. Robert, I too am so sorry to hear that this happened to you. While I don’t pretend to understand why, it seems that sometimes it IS the very folks that you have done more for than you have for others that find fault. I’ve spent a lot of years observing this (through marriage) in another medical field. But because we love what we do, and most of the time, we get a lot of that love back, we keep going. Virtual hugs incoming. Jenni

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