I found myself back where it all started, where I was once a student in 1991, later an instructor in 2007, and now speaking with a class of new lab techs. Somehow, we stumbled into a discussion about something very important to me.
Going to the doctor isn’t usually the best part of someone’s day. As a matter of fact, a single trip to medical can be the low point of an entire month or year. And nowadays, with the advances in diagnostic medicine, those trips usually end with a trip to the laboratory to get blood drawn. What was already unpleasant can outright suck when a person finds him or herself on the business end of a needle.
So, as a starting point, the trip to the lab is usually a negative experience. I don’t know too many people who like being stuck with needles and losing blood. At best, the average person tolerates it, but it still starts out for most as a bad end to an already bad doctor’s visit. I think all of us have some experience with sitting in that chair with the tourniquet around our arm and being uncomfortable, perhaps negative, and certainly critical of the surprisingly young man or woman with the needle.
“And here’s where it get’s important,” I said to the students. “You, the person with the needle, have a chance to make this already negative experience suck less.”
How, you ask?
Well, first be great at your job. Knowing how to do your job, in this case at least, has an immediate impact on the person in front of you. When I was in the same course, in the same building, many years ago, we learned by drawing blood from each other, which was a good way to learn some empathy and hopefully to get it right before we stuck real patients. I can tell you that it’s not something you get really good at in the first dozen tries. The best you can hope for is to not hurt your classmate. This just comes from practice.
And yes, the person, patient, or customer in any situation expects us to be good at the job we’re being paid to do. Any reason a person has for not being good enough at their job right that minute, with someone expecting some sort of service, just sounds like an excuse.
The most important way to make this initially negative event suck less is our attitude. Customer service is hard, no matter what you do. Having a negative attitude just makes it worse. Complaining about the weather doesn’t make the sun shine, and being actively dissatisfied with food certainly doesn’t improve the taste. In those situations, you’re just making your own day worse.
But, in the hard job of sticking people with needles who would rather not be there, and who are a little skeptical that you should be doing it in the first place, a negative attitude can make the whole thing bad for yourself and the person sitting in front of you. If our intent is truly to do no harm, then I’m telling you right now that keeping a positive attitude is an essential part of that.
I’m not saying you need a comedy routine and make people laugh all the time, but you do at least need to show some sincerity, make it known that you like the job you’re doing, and that you’re happy to be there.
If your customer of whatever flavor isn’t happy to be there, and neither are you, how can that end well? If that’s the case, the customer might leave and not come back. If that’s the case, sooner or later, so will you.
Broadening the scope a bit, I think we’ve all had our turn in the wash at one point or another, where we just had to muscle through some unpleasant things. When that happens, we really don’t need anyone making it worse. And when we see someone going through those times, it may seem like there’s nothing we can do to solve the problem, to bring it all back to rainbows and unicorns, but if we reach out, if we connect, maybe we can make the bad days suck just a bit less.
Have a great week out there