Tuesday, March 24, 2015

3 Ways to handle patients who do not answer your phone calls

Let’s face it. The hospice environment is fast moving and dynamic with all the changes and challenges. The Chaplain’s daily schedule would greatly profit by patients and/or caregivers answering their phones and working with the Chaplain to set an appointment either for an Initial Assessment or a Routine Visit. Any seasoned hospice Chaplain will tell you that that is fantasy. So, what can a Chaplain do to see his/her patients when they don’t answer the phone? 1. Talk to the Nurse. She or he usually has a good idea what is happening with the patient and caregiver. Most Nurses ask the patient if they have seen the Chaplain. Most Nurses will share the truth about what they were told by the patient or caregiver. If it seems that the Nurse can broker or negotiate with the patient or caregiver to give you a chance to speak to them over the phone, then use this strategy first. I have used is successfully many times. 2. Make a joint visit with a Nurse or Social Worker. Explain the situation with the Nurse and/or Social Worker. A joint visit is a good way to see the patient if they are open to seeing you but for one reason or another does not answer the phone. The Nurse or Social Worker may indicate that the patient is exhausted by the continual ringing of the phone and have decided to simply not answer the thing. The patient and caregiver know they must see the Nurse and in most cases the Social Worker, so they do recognize their phone numbers and answer. Yours is not familiar and so they don’t answer. This strategy works only if the patient and/or caregiver are open to seeing you. 3. The third and worst strategy is to assign this patient as a Decline and move on. However, let me be clear, this is the absolute last option. It is your responsibility to contact the patient or caregiver and present a non-anxious voice presence on the telephone to secure a visit. If, after 3-5 attempts, there is no response, then assign the patient as a Decline. Again, let me remind you that you may do this ONLY after you have spoken to the Nurse, Social Worker, or Home Health Aide and fully understand the family dynamics and that there might be a very good reason no one answers the phone; and after you have attempted a joint visit with the Nurse or Social Worker. I know this takes precious time, but the patient is a precious soul, a dying precious soul who needs a Chaplain. If you have another strategy that has worked for you, please share it and I’ll post it here.

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