Handling the Too Talkative Patient

Over the years I have heard from many doctors how their front desk staff are pinned down by patients or clients who want to talk and talk, and the poor receptionist can’t get her work done.

Then there is the doctor who wants to get going on treating the patient or client but stands helplessly while the person carries on with their life story.  Or maybe it’s at the end of the treatment and the person just won’t leave and you have others waiting.

What to do, what to do?

Understanding Why

The first step in handling is understanding why the person is doing this.  Perhaps they haven’t talked to a soul for days and days, and here you are, a living breathing person that they can shoot some sounds at.  Quite often, it is like a one-sided monologue and as if a recording had been turned on and they just start and don’t know how to end.  They sometimes don’t even pause to let you answer or give your own thoughts.

The Art of Interruption

So, there is a skill that if used adroitly will get you out of these tight spots.  It is called the Art of Interruption.

  1. The first step is to figure out when you have reached the point where you’ve heard enough.
  1. The second step is to strategically jump in when they stop to suck in a breath. If they fail to do that soon enough for you, then you just suddenly look surprised and say with a lovely smile, “Excuse me for interrupting you, but I need to ask you a question.  Is that all right with you?”  (Then just make one up that seems somewhat relevant to today’s procedures.)

Alternative Interruption Statements:

Receptionist:  Find a brief spot to squeeze in, “How lovely to chat with you, and thank you for updating me.  By the way, did you see that we have some fresh magazines for you to enjoy on our coffee table over there.  Go have a look.”

Receptionist:  “So sorry to interrupt you, Mrs. Jones, I need to get back onto preparing … calling to confirm … pulling charts … (whatever seems realistic).  Would you mind awfully?  Why don’t you have a seat and I am sure the doctor will be with you shortly.”  (All of which is said sweetly.)

Doctor:  Interrupt a long one-way chat and say, “Oh my goodness, I am so sorry to cut you off like this but I want to make sure that you got what you came in for today?”  Or, “Sorry to interrupt you.  I have a patient waiting, but I would love to hear the rest of THAT story the next time you come here.”

There you go.  I am sure you can figure out some more very appropriate interruption statements.  Practice the Art of Interruption and have a more productive day!

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