Patient Experience Tips
"When you have an angry patient, 
respond with empathy."


Imagine this scenario, which could occur in either the hospital or clinic: Your patient, Ms. Johnson, is quite ill. Her daughter flew in from out of town to bring her to the doctor, and she is  desperately waiting to hear what you have to say. As usual, it's a busy morning so you are running behind. When you finally enter the room, her daughter let's you have it.

Finally, you're here! How could you keep us waiting for so long? My mother is sick and you took your sweet time coming in to see her! How could you be so thoughtless?

What can you do to address her concerns with empathy?

I want to share 3 great suggestions from my course with you:

1. Listen - our tendency is to interrupt and defend ourselves, but in these situations, taking time to truly listen without interruption goes a long way. While listening, actively use expressions to show that you are tuned in. 
- "Hmmm"
- "I see"
- "Uh huh"
- "Go on" 

2. Name the feeling - one of the first things we can do is name the feeling that our patients and family members are expressing. Some great phrases to use are:
- "It sounds like..."
- "What I'm hearing you say is..."
- "What you're telling me is..."
- "I can tell that you're [emotion person is expressing]" 

3. Imaginative empathy - this refers to us imagining what someone else is going through from their perspective. In my course, they taught us never to say, "I know what you're going through" or "I understand what you're going through". This is disingenuous because you don't fully know or understand. Instead, use imaginative empathy phrases.
- "I can imagine what this must feel like..."
- "I can imagine how scary this is for you"
- "I can imagine how frustrated this experience has been"

Knowing this, how can you respond to Ms. Johnson's daughter?

After listening to her concerns, you could say something like this. I'm so sorry to keep you waiting. I can tell that you are frustrated. It sounds like your mom has been ill for several days and it's been very scary for you, especially since you've been trying to take care of her despite living in another state and having a family of your own. I can only imagine how stressful this is.

Granted, her daughter may still have some residual anger/frustration, but you have definitely made more progress with this approach than if you had responded angrily or defensively. To be honest, I've used this approach many times before, and even though the patient/family may have been angry when I initially walked in, they are incredibly thankful and grateful for my care by the time I leave.

That's it for this week. I hope this helps, and next time, I'll give you a few more tips that I learned in my course for responding with empathy.

Take care,




Thanks to everyone who came out to support me during my talk at the  Cleveland Clinic Patient Experience: Empathy + Innovation Summit. It was such an honor to present at the conference, and I hope you learned something new.



Do you want to improve your patient experience? If so, your wait is over.Physician's Guide to Surviving CGCAHPS & HCAHPS and CGCAHPS & HCAHPS Breakthrough are two great books for anyone looking to improve their patient experience!

Thank you to everyone who has already bought a copy! I appreciate your support, and I sincerely hope my books have helped you improve your patient experience.



Click HERE for Physician's Guide to Surviving CGCAHPS & HCAHPS


Click HERE for CGCAHPS & HCAHPS Breakthrough


Want to subscribe to my newsletter?




09/08/2015 12:45pm

Maybe the nursing staff did not pay you as much attention because you're known to them for keep contacting the ambulance and going into the medical center when you should be seeing your physician.

07/27/2016 5:02pm

I think the article is composed fairly well. The author even added a case scenario so as to help the readers understand his point better. It is good that he has provided these tips when dealing with angry patients. I think that being empathetic to others is applicable even in other circumstances. We never know what these people we encounter are going through with their lives. The least we could do is be understanding, and help as much as we can.

02/12/2016 8:29pm

May I just say what a relief to discover an individual who really knows what they are talking about online. You actually understand how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More and more people really need to check this out and understand this side of the story. I was surprised you aren't more popular given that you definitely have the gift.

02/12/2016 9:26pm

I'm extremely pleased to uncover this web site. I want to to thank you for ones time due to this wonderful read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it and I have you book-marked to look at new stuff on your web site.

03/22/2016 5:52am

Sometimes it happens but I dont give a respond.

06/16/2016 12:12pm

This post is really informative and you have posted such precious and informative article which gave me lot of information. I hope that you will keep it up and we will have more informative and helping news from you. Thanks

06/19/2016 12:42am

06/19/2016 1:00pm

I am also a doctor and can understand all of the tips that is available here and these are helpful for my practice. I always show empathy to the angry patients and treats them with love and care.


It's a great strategy. Nice post.

09/30/2016 8:53am

Simply recall that you should tape the shield back over your eye during the evening or amid rests, for insurance while you recoup from waterfall surgery, in any event for a few days.

Try not to be frightened if your vision appears to be overcast, hazy or contorted after you first evacuate the eye shield. It can require some investment for your visual framework to change in accordance with the evacuation of the waterfall and adjust to the intraocular focal point used to supplant your eye's common focal point.

01/15/2017 4:28am

You see that is the right decision to treat like that. Great to have smart person next to you.

01/26/2017 11:20am

Play as this is your game of the year as this contains a lot diamonds and coins

02/16/2017 4:56am

Solitaire is the most popular card game around. Card Game Solitaire does it better than the rest offering smooth game play and an undo button! Made popular online by the original PC solitaire version, Card Game Solitaire's Klondike Solitaire is taken to the next level with a game you'll keep coming back to again and again!

03/17/2017 12:13am

Hi, nice article. I have been pondering concerning this matter, so thanks for sharing.

03/17/2017 12:14am

With sincerity and admin of a site, take the time to present important information to the visitors.

03/27/2017 7:27am

It's a nice read. I like watching videos instead of reading articles though. Netflix offers good quality entertainment videosand documentaries without any commercials Contact Netflix

03/27/2017 7:28am

Nice article. It was a great reading. For any queries regarding Dell products contact Dell Customer Service Phone Number

03/27/2017 7:28am

nice one, It was a very nice article i like reading it. For any queries regarding HP products contact HP Phone Number


Good one. One of the best i ever read. For any queries regarding netgear networking products contact Netgear Support Phone Number


Good article. The words are quite inspiring. For any queries regarding roku contact Roku Contact


Good article. For any queries regarding linksys products contact Linksys Number

03/27/2017 7:30am

Inspiring article. For any queries regarding Cisco products contact Cisco Contact Centre Express


Very Informative...

09/13/2017 9:54am

Beauti Queen amazing kolkata escorts agency alwyas ready for you at your doorstep. Beauti Queen provide you high profile independent girl in kolkata, escorts service in kolkata, kolkata escorts. If you are looking for the ultimate encounter in Kolkata then I am your sophisticated young Kolkata escorts that provides upscale companionship for making your night becomes true.

09/13/2017 9:54am

Beauti Queen amazing kolkata escorts agency alwyas ready for you at your doorstep. Beauti Queen provide you high profile independent girl in kolkata, escorts service in kolkata, kolkata escorts. If you are looking for the ultimate encounter in Kolkata then I am your sophisticated young Kolkata escorts that provides upscale companionship for making your night becomes true.


Jiya Roy is a high class luxury and premium independent escorts agency in Gurgaon offering sexy independent escort Girls, models and cheap rate call girls for incalls and outcalls and travel arrangements.

09/23/2017 3:33pm offers highly educated model from Gurgaon and best Escorts service in Gurgaon through some of its sizzling Independent escorts in Gurgaon Call Girls who are available to customers 24*7.

10/01/2017 10:08am

Renu Das Kolkata Escorts Services has gorgeous females provides Independent Escorts Service in Kolkata call girls at 100% satisfaction with VIP models. Provided Kolkata escorts at our agency are professional in nature and are eager to serve you at your place.

10/06/2017 7:10am

Welcome Guys| We are providing Best Escort Service in Gurgaon with affordable rates, just call us for Hi profile Call Girls in Gurgaon . Contact us for Call Girl in Gurgaon. 9971089475

10/09/2017 5:38am

Nehru Place Escorts offering Hi I am Aruna Singh I am waiting very eagerly to make your evening colorful.Nehru place Escorts service Call Girl & Female Model Escort Services in Nehru Place for Your Spicy erotic Desires.I am Available 24X7. I'm also provide the all kind of .So, just call me. (Nehru place ) – Delhi.

11/21/2017 7:19am

Delhi-Divas amazing Delhi escorts who is always ready for you at your doorstep. Hurry up to avail the most seductive independent escorts in Delhi. Delhi-Divas escorts agency is providing you with High Quality and Verified girl in Delhi, escorts service in delhi, delhi escorts.

02/16/2018 6:59am

Riya Chaudhary is an Independent Delhi Escort girl, who offers dazzling hot Delhi Escorts Service, incall or outcall services both to complete your dreams in real entertainment. We offers high class Independent Escorts in Delhi at Riya Chaudhary Delhi Escorts service agency for elite peoples in the city to avail ultimate satisfaction. you can spend your beautiful moments.


Leave a Reply


    Trina E. Dorrah, MD, MPH, is a board-certified internal medicine physician who practices at Baylor Scott & White Health in Round Rock, TX. In addition to her clinical work, Dr. Dorrah is the medical director of quality and the physician champion for the patient experience. Dr. Dorrah is passionate about improving the patient experience and she loves to share her expertise with others. 

    See Also Blog


    May 2015
    April 2015


    Patient Experience