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Apr 2017

How Hospitals Can Avoid a United Airlines PR Nightmare!

In the business world, there are two rules:

    1. The customer is always right
    2. See Rule No. 1
    3. In the modern 21st century world, where every smartphone-carrying consumer is also an amateur live news reporter, businesses must be vigilant because these rules, are indeed, followed.

      Recent video footage of airport security guards dragging a physician from an overbooked United Airlines flight is an excellent example of damage that can occur by not following the two golden rules. The financial fallout and reputation damage to United Airlines because of the ultimate PR fiasco provides an excellent lesson for hospitals across the country.

      Sometimes common sense is better than following ‘by-the-book’ protocol. The lesson for healthcare providers from this United Airline’s debacle is not how to handle crisis management with apologies days later, but rather how to teach employees to handle difficult situations more nimbly and deftly than defaulting robotically to the “call security” mode.

      Hospital staff would benefit from studying the United Airlines video to discuss and learn alternative ways to handle crisis situations.

      A hospital’s emergency department is fertile ground for unsettling conflicts. Many patients, as well as family members or friends of a patient, who come to the ER are often seeking immediate medical attention, and they have a lot of anxiety, intensifying an already stressed personality.

      A hospital’s registration staff, nurses and doctors have many responsibilities to manage through the course of the day. Dealing with an unruly patient and/or visitor can only cause additional stress. A positive way to approach a potentially disruptive person is treating the patient or relative with respect, compassion and empathy. Unless the patient is presenting an immediate threat to themselves or others, a hospital employee resorting to calling security right away could be a recipe for a “United disaster.”

      We go, often reluctantly or with no choice, to a hospital knowing we are placing our life in the trained hands of medical professionals. We do not like this loss of control! Before picking up the phone to call security, first determine if the individual is posing a real threat to the safety and well-being of themselves and those around them. If the answer is no, then a well-trained staff (not security) prepared to handle an unruly patient is the best scenario for avoiding a PR nightmare.

      A few helpful tips for hospital staff include the following:

    4. Speak softly
    5. Refrain from being judgmental of the patient
    6. Try to remain neutral, like Switzerland, with no sides being taken
    7. Allow distance between yourself and the patient
    8. Do not make intense eye contact. This could set them off
    9. Demonstrate situation control without being demanding
    10. Seek to smooth the situation instead of bullying the patient into an ideal patient
    11. Practice deep breathing to calm yourself. This will help you maintain your composure and help your stress levels from rising
    12. Finally, there is one more saying that should be listened to in the wake of the United Airlines huge mishap.

      “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail,” said Benjamin Franklin. Clearly, United Airlines failed to adhere to a founding father’s sage advice. Hospitals would be wise to invest time and money into making sure staff is ready to handle tough situations. Remember; if no one is in danger, do not resort to security doing the difficult part of the job for you.

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