Dealing with intimidating in-office encounters

Although I’m a new(er) graduate, I’ve run into my fair share of patients who have challenging personalities. Thankfully, through advice from my mentors (within and outside of optometry) and experience, I’ve learned how to deal with these patients professionally.


Within the first three months of opening my practice, I had a patient throw a fit in the waiting room because our choice of music wasn’t gospel. She said she was so offended by the music — we subscribe to a station that removes swear words, etc. — that she said she wanted to report us to the Better Business Bureau.

For being out of school and in practice for just three months, this terrified me! To diffuse the situation, I turned off the music altogether. This decision helped, although the patient then preached in the office for about 30 minutes. If this situation happened again tomorrow, I’m pretty sure I would say, “Bless your heart! Thank you for bringing this to my attention,” and temporarily changed the station. (For information on practice music, see .)

Photo courtesy of WavebreakMediaMicro/


Insurance deductibles have always been a difficult concept for some patients to grasp, but most of them understand their vision discount plan doesn’t cover everything on a pair of glasses or contact lenses. One patient became so irate that we charged him a $10 exam copay, $60 contact lens fitting fee (per his insurance) and overages on his glasses and contact lenses, that he literally threatened my front desk staff with bodily harm if they didn’t waive the fees. Additionally, he used every swear word under the sun and, within seconds, graduated to stomping his feet and banging his fists on the desk.

Once I emerged from the exam room, he began to backpedal and wanted to complete his glasses and contact lenses order. I replied, “I decline the opportunity to disappoint you anymore and recommend you take your business elsewhere.” He walked out — after paying his copays!


I’m not sure if there’s something in the water at my office, but it seems my team members (male and female) and I attract a lot of stalkers. Patients have asked each of us for dates, have stalked us on social media and, on two occasions have sent flowers or Edible Arrangements accompanied by inappropriate notes. The most outrageous, thus far, was when a patient interrupted my technician during pre-testing another patient and asked for a date. She replied, “This office isn’t your personal . Please get out.” (For more on how to handle sexual harassment by patients, visit .) OM