Angry or abusive triage calls

As a healthcare professional you’ll deal with all sorts of different callers during your career. Some calls will be difficult to deal with, requiring special tactics to help the patient stay in control and receive the right help.

Angry and/or abusive callers are some of the more challenging, so it’s worth knowing how best to deal with them. Here are some tips:

The Angry Caller

Angry or frustrated callers can be a bit of a nightmare, but with these three simple steps you should be better able to manage the conversation:

LISTEN. This will help you to truly understand the patient’s problem or concern. Occasionally interject supportive words or short phrases such as “Yes, I see” or “I understand”.

RELATE. Let the patient know that you’re sorry they’re upset. Apologise in a general sense and know you can relate to what they’re saying by using phrases like “I am sorry about the confusion” or “I understand how you must feel.”

SOLVE. Lastly, propose a plan of action that will solve their problem. Based on what the concerns are you can suggest a solution or at least a step that will lead in the right direction. This may include phrases such as “I would like to help you. How about if I….” or “I would like to help fix this for you, can I bring my supervisor in on this call to assist you?”

The Abusive Caller

Abusive callers can test your patience and tact the most. Sadly, a certain amount of abuse in your career can be expected, but you don’t have to put up with it. To deflect abusive callers:

Give the patient the benefit of the doubt by politely letting them know that you want to assist them, but that it’s difficult when they’re using that language or tone.

If that doesn’t work, repeat what you said and ask them to please stop using that language. “As I said, I would really like to help, but I am having trouble focusing on the problem when you speak that way. Please stop and listen to me for a moment so that we can work this out.”

If the caller continues to be abusive, tell them that you are no longer the person who can help, and let them know you are going to hang up and have a manager call them. Before you hang up though make sure you first say, “I am sorry, but I am going to hang up now” and then do it.

Don’t forget…

Someone else’s anger is about them, not you – so try hard not to get upset or take it personally. We all know how it feels to be frightened, sick, tired or anxious, and a little empathy goes a long way.

Overall, the outcome of dealing with a difficult caller depends on your own skills and professionalism. It is not always easy, but if you approach the manner effectively, you should be able to reach an agreeable resolution.

Looking to update your triage skills?

If so, you may well find our excellent scheduled course Telephone triage refresh & refine extremely helpful. Ideal for nurses, doctors, health visitors and other allied health professionals, this interactive one-day course is aimed at the experienced telephone triage practitioner. It provides participants with a review of basic skills and looks at more challenging issues.

Worth 7 hours of CPD, it’s held entirely online. This means it’s easy to log on remotely to build your skills and gain those all-important CPD hours in a way that suits you. 

Alternatively, there’s also our Telephone triage for HCAs course. Also held online over one day – and worth 7 hours of CPD – it’s designed specifically for HCAs and HCSWs. Covering standards of customer care and many other facets of telephone triage, it’s aimed at those looking to boost their confidence in this subject. 

Whichever course you choose, all materials and certificates will be provided. However, they’re always very popular and spaces are limited so book up now!