Miscommunication: A Simple Explanation, a Not-So-Simple Solution

Suzanne FiscelIa, PA-C, BCPA / October 3, 2016


The patient came in to the clinic with a very definite purpose in mind about what he needed done. He had hearing loss and needed the wax cleaned out of both ears as he knew he had wax buildup. Because this patient has suffered from this before, he knew there was only one way to get the wax out and he must be seen in a clinic which carries a special machine.

Here’s how the conversation went.

Patient to Front desk receptionist, “Do you have the special machine here to get the wax out of my ears?”

Front desk: “I don’t know, let me check.”

Front desk to Back office nurse, “Do we do ear lavages?”

Nurse, “Yes, we do.”

Front desk receptionist to Patient, “Yes, we do. Have a seat and we will take you back momentarily.”

Patient waits to be called to the back exam room. After weight, height, pulse, and blood pressure and temperature are checked, nurse says, “So, you need an ear lavage today?’

Patient says, “No, I specifically asked if you had the MACHINE that cleans the wax out of ears. Ear lavages do not work on my ears.”

Nurse to Patient, “Oh I’m sorry but we don’t have that machine.”

What went wrong with this communication? Was the patient not clear enough? Did the front desk receptionist change the language? YES! The MACHINE is a highly specialized instrument the patient asked about. Ear lavage is a PROCEDURE using water to wash wax out of the ears.

The patient would have been saved the time and money if he had the name of the MACHINE he needed and had written it down for the receptionist.

Because the receptionist is not trained in medical language, procedures, or instruments, she changed his question about a machine to her own question about a procedure.

Office visit rule: Never assume the front desk personnel know medicine.

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Suzanne FiscelIa, PA-C, BCPA

I know exactly what it's like to feel like you just can't keep up. Working a full-time job, raising 3 children as a single mom, and taking care of her aging mother. But after feeling lost, overwhelmed, and guilty for spreading herself too thin, I saw all her patients and their caregivers going through the same thing. I learned how to put simple systems in place to keep my life free from distractions, find free time to do the things I wanted, and enjoy my family along the way. These simple step-by-step solutions have been shared with my patients, friends, and family. They too have found organization, confidence, peace, and freedom. Now we all live the life we love while caregiving! Come join us!

Hi I'm Suzanne

And my mission is to find you practical easy-to-follow solutions for everyday caregiving. Find out more HERE.

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