what to do if your doctor or other provider insults you

Determine the Intent of the Insult

If you feel as if your provider has insulted you, there may be some steps you need to take. Providers, like your doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, medical assistant, even the billing clerk or receptionist in your doctor’s office or the hospital, are professionals, but they are people, too.

You may feel insulted by something they have said or done, feeling as if judgment has been passed on you that is unfair and should not have been passed.

Before you take steps to deal with insulting behavior from a medical provider, be sure you understand why a provider might insult you. It will help you decide whether you should do something about it.

What to Do If Your Provider Insults You Unintentionally

If you determine that the person who insulted you or a loved one probably did not intend to do so, you have a few choices.

Say nothing and let it be. Calling someone on their insulting behavior, if you aren’t sure it was intended, can create more problems later if you embarrass them or make them angry. Don’t forget - sticks and stones, etc.
Say something, but not in a confrontational manner. “Nurse Emily, when you comment about my bad breath, it comes across as insulting, and I don’t think you mean for it to be an insult. I have not been able to afford good dental care. Wish I could.” Be polite, and say it quietly enough so you won’t be overheard by her colleagues. Your intent is not to embarrass her, just to make her aware of the effect her words have had on you.
Decide whether you have felt insulted by this same person previously, or in a more general sense by others in the same practice, testing or care facility, whether or not they intended to be rude or insulting. If so, you may want to say something to the practice manager or the doctors who own the practice using the following advice.

What to Do If Your Provider Insults You and You Believe It Was Intentional

If you determine that the person who insulted you or your loved one intentionally, you have a few choices. The keys here are to get the behavior to stop and to try to be sure it won’t happen again to you, or to others.

First, ask the person to repeat the insult to be sure you heard it clearly and it was clearly intended to be insulting. “Pardon me? Would you repeat what you just said to me please?”
Ask for clarification. “Did you intend to insult me?” Sometimes that’s all that is needed to stop it. Just calling someone on it might be enough of a reminder that their behavior is unacceptable.
Say something about it, and be very firm. “I do not appreciate your making comments under your breath about my weight. That’s very rude.” If possible, say it within earshot of others so that the story won’t be told later by the insultor, making you out to be the person who was out of line. If someone is prone to being insulting and rude, they may also be prone to making up stories and certainly trying to defend themselves.
If the insult was truly egregious and clearly intended, make the practice manager or practice owner aware of the problem in writing. Here’s how:
Write down the name and position of the insultor while you are still in the office. If you prefer not to ask the insultor for that information, ask one of her co-workers. Believe me, if you are being insulted, then others are, too. Co-workers will probably be happy to give you the information. In addition to the name of the perpetrator, you’ll need the name and mailing address of the practice manager or the doctor who owns the practice, or if it’s a hospital or testing center, you’ll need the name and address of the CEO or chief administrator.
When you get home, write a letter to the practice manager or the doctor who owns the practice, describing the scenario under which you felt insulted, and repeating exactly what was said to you, or what action was taken that insulted you. Be sure to state clearly what you expect to happen once your letter has been received, such as, you’d like the person to take sensitivity training, or you’d like the person to apologize to you, or to resign (or be fired)—whatever you think is appropriate. And just as important, be sure to give a date when you expect those steps will have been taken. Be realistic—these things don’t happen overnight. If you are asking for an apology, give them a week. If you are asking for training, you’ll need four or five months.