Select Page
These are some ways you can stand up for your rights in a medical setting. You are not being selfish to stand for your rights or those of your loved one. #patientrights #caregiving

Photo: Canva

How can you stand up for yourself or your loved one if you are either not receiving good care or your needs are being ignored. We need to be realistic regarding our expectations, but we can expect to be treated with respect and professionalism by the medical staff in the doctors’ offices or hospitals where we are treated.

Our expectation of them is not that their lives are perfect, but that they will behave professionally toward us. Their manager and bosses expect this of them too! We hope they will be able to put their problems in a box while they are at work and treat us professionally.

That means that if we are treated rudely or in a mean-spirited way, we can speak up. This is particularly true if this has become habitual. Everyone has a bad day. But the habitual ways we are treated tell the true story.

We don’t help anyone by allowing that behavior to continue. If it is unusual for that person, we can give them some grace. But repeated rude or mean behavior doesn’t need to be tolerated. We are not being more “christian” to tolerate it. It doesn’t help the reputation of the doctor whose office where it happens. It doesn’t help the other patients who have to follow behind us either.

There are straightforward ways of dealing with difficult behavior. Very few of them are convenient. You have to decide if it has become habitual.

If it happens in the hospital, you can ask the same questions of yourself. It just gets dealt with a little differently. I have had a situation happen in each place personally and have had to work with situations at work in both places as well (not regarding myself) so I can give you some tips.

First, think about your goal in dealing with the situation.

When dealing with either place, think about what your goal is in terms of resolving it.

  • Do you just want to find a way to work out a simple relationship problem?
  • Do you want them fired? (Is this a realistic expectation?) This is usually a revengeful goal.
  • Do you want them to have remediation training in a certain area?
  • Do you need help in understanding a certain system in the hospital or office that would resolve this communication problem? It will help you to think through and know your goal.

When dealing with a doctor’s office…

When dealing with a doctor’s office, it often depends on the size office it is. In a large office with multiple doctors, if you aren’t able to resolve your issues (and they aren’t always personal I know), ask to talk to the office manager.

Make notes as soon after the event happened with only facts included. Leave out all guesses as to the person’s motives because they are only guesses. Include in your notes, the date and approximate time of day the incident occurred. Summarize the conversation as well as you can. Use your notes when talking to the manager. Feel free to ask questions, particularly if you have questions about their procedures. Talk slow, softer than normal and take slow, deep breaths. It will keep you calm. (Can you tell I have experience here?) The clearer, more concise, and factually oriented you are with the manager, the easier it will be for that person to help you. It also bolsters your 

With a smaller practice, there are usually less people between the person you have a problem with and the doctor for you to talk to. Often, he is the one you have to go to with your complaint. I had an issue in a smaller office a few years ago that I felt I had to address.

Over time, the office person was something of a bully, but I only had to deal with her once a year. Then I had to start dealing with her more frequently and she became more overt. I was not known as a complainer. That helped me a lot. I wrote out what happened in the incident and at the end of my office visit, I told the doctor what had happened with no judgements about her motives or the truth of some of what she had told me (some of which I was certain had been a lie!) He told me he appreciated the information and profusely apologized. I think I also mentioned what a kind doctor he was (true!) and how she gave his practice a false picture of who he was. (He knew I had worked for many years for a doctor he admired.)

Months later, when I came for a follow-up appointment, there was a new woman working there who was very friendly and loved working with people. She was totally different from the other woman. I can’t guarantee any results.

When dealing with a hospital and issues with staff or a doctor there…

When dealing with issues in a hospital, it is a bit different. There are many layers for getting help. You don’t have to be stuck! If you have a problem with someone who is working on a specific unit, you can ask to talk to the head nurse about your complaint. They have to talk to you and fill out a form and follow through on it. Out of that comes a conversation with the the head nurse. She must follow up with a conversation with the person who was involved in the altercation as well as investigating the facts of the situation.

Again, the clearer you are about what happened in terms of facts, not emotion, the better. The calmer you can discuss what happened, the easier it is for her to sort out what happened. I realize that isn’t always possible, but it helps not to be angry at the person you are giving your complaint to. They aren’t the one who caused the problem.

If your complaint is with a doctor, his not communicating with you, etc. like we had on one occasion, you can contact the Patient Care representative in the hospital or ask the nursing staff how to reach them. They may even make the contact for you.

Keep your nurse updated if you are having trouble with the doctor because they can often work around the situation and help you out like ours did.

It was during a particularly upsetting admission to the hospital for Ron. There were many questions about his diagnosis with no answers. I couldn’t get through to the doctor at the office to get answers and I felt that I at least needed a consult with my neurologist after 3 days in the hospital in Neuro Intensive Care. It seemed I was always missing both him and his PA…and I was there all day every day! Then I saw his PA on the unit and she never came in the room.  I was pretty upset!

We got in touch with the hospital to make a complaint. The Patient Care Rep in the hospital filled in the form for me. She encouraged me to make my complaint so they could deal with the issue. They did everything they could to make it easy for me.

You need to be aware of your rights as a patient. You don’t want to be complaining about everything for sure. But you also don’t want to be enduring abuse either when you are under stress already.

I hope my illustrations have been helpful.

I also hope they can help you have a smoother adjustment to the system in your doctor’s office;
To know if you need to stand up for your rights as a patient/patient advocate;
To know if you need to change doctors, something that is needed rarely, but on occasion.