Sure you’re Busy, but you Don’t need to Tell the Patient

Posted by Kristin Baird on May 6th, 2015 • 3 Comments »

One of my pet peeves is hearing people working in customer-facing positions telling their customers how busy they are. I wonder what they think this accomplishes. Is it intended as an excuse, an explanation, or perhaps a way to manipulate the customer into backing down from making any demands?

In healthcare, where our customers are often sick, exhausted, and in pain, they don’t deserve to hear that someone is too busy for them. In fact, telling patients you are busy makes them lose confidence that their needs will be met. Some data even suggests that telling patients you’re busy can actually cause them to be more demanding.

On multiple occasions I have had patients or family members tell me they don’t want to ask for anything because the staff is busy. I’ll ask them how they know the staff is so busy and they say, “Oh, they tell me all the time.” What I’ve learned is that when patients hear that staff is busy, they feel they are a burden. How sad. I don’t think that is what is intended, but it has that impact.

Remember, your customers aren’t a burden. They’re the reason you have a job.

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Baird Consulting

3 Responses to “Sure you’re Busy, but you Don’t need to Tell the Patient”

  1. Hi Kristin, this speaks to the communication disconnect that’s so pervasive in healthcare. It’s quite possible that the bedside caregivers have tried unsuccessfully to get additional staff, and I’ve personally seen major shifts happen when patients report their observations directly to administration. As an RN Patient Advocate, I frequently observe frenzied environments that add to the medical errors the medical system continues to face. Effective communication and collaboration start with administrative example. To quote the Beryl Institute….”the Patient Experience is the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care”. Thank you for your post!

  2. I agree about seeing frenzied staff and the need for adequate staffing. We have so many opportunities to influence perceptions. Telling patients you’re short staffed or very busy is one of them.

  3. Sandy Cooprider, RN, coordinator for PX says:

    This is a very good reminder that patients don’t need our excuses or explanations. They need us to be attentive to their healing needs, for whatever amount of time that we can give them.
    I often think that if we gave up that excuse time we would have more time to meet needs as well as make our patients less anxious and more confident in our care.


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