The Customer is NEVER Right - A Nurse Practitioner's Perspective
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Meeting the patient advocate

At a new Locums Emergency Department job I had to go through the hospital’s new employee orientation. Nothing new and something I have done a number of times. However, for the first time ever. Ever! The hospital’s orientation included a visit to the patient advocate’s office. For me, the experience paralleled what it must be like when a prisoner enters prison for the first time and visits the warden’s office on arrival only to be told of the institution’s ideologies.
 
 
After meeting the patient advocate and sitting down I said to him, “I been told patient advocates do not move the needle of customer satisfaction.” To my surprise he agreed stating, “We are the lighting rod of customer service.” Ouch! That must hurt. I then struggled with wanting to tell him about the book, The Customer is NEVER Right, or at least direct him to the website where he might find a blog about a patient advocate, him, but I held off.
 
 
Unfortunately, during our conversation the patient advocate said to me, “Most complaints come from temporary providers.” Imagine that! I thought to myself. Are other temporary providers, like me, trying to find a workplace they can call home where others appreciate their work as a benefit and not a risk to the organization, or are they roaming through the halls of healthcare trying to avoid an accumulation of patient complaints. Or, as some have suggested, are they just going around “pissing off people?”
 
 
Not that I had any issues with the patient advocate, but really, of all the things hard to come by money could be spent on. But I guess it’s not such a bad idea, after all, the FAA has a designated office dedicated to fielding airline customer complaints too and maintains a list of some 3200 difficult customers. However, as the patient advocate admitted, patient advocates do not move the customer service needle. Actually, according to Lee, nothing has moved the customer service needle in healthcare in the past decade or more. So, why keep throwing money at it?
 
 
However, I did have a concern when the patient advocate asked me to give him a heads up if I thought a patient might complaint. What is the benefit of that? Is it because whoever tells their story first is commonly considered more credible? What if I do give him a heads up of someone who may complain but that person does not complain? Then what? What if I miss someone who I never thought would complain yet did. It’s almost like answering during a job interview, “Have you ever committed a crime no one knew about?” What!?!

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