It’s a shame. So many times I’ve heard or read one eye care professional denigrate another. Why they do it I’m not sure. Even though I’m not a trained psychologist I have been in the company of many different types of people and it probably has something to do with low self-esteem, insecurity and the poor upbringing of the denigrator.

It usually goes something like this. A patient mentions that they weren’t happy about the cost of spectacles, or advice given, or chair side manners or something of that nature, of their previous eye care practitioner. This is met with a comment such as: ‘You’ve tried the rest, now you’re with the best’; or: ‘I’ve heard so many bad things about that practitioner’; or ‘I don’t know why he hasn’t been struck off’.

There are too many versions to record them all here. The patient may return to the first practitioner and relay your comments. The patient may also think that if the practitioner bad mouths others then ‘What does he say about me?’

Or one practitioner discusses another practitioner with a clinical assistant and uses derogatory terms to describe that practitioner’s skills. The clinical assistant discusses this with her friend who mentions it to a person who works in the other practitioner’s practice who raises the comments in the staff room. The clinical assistant also thinks ‘I wonder what he says about my clinical skills?’.

This type of ‘bad mouthing’ could lead to a complaint against you to the regulator. In the UK, the College of Optometrists (a body that assists in professional development) provides guidance on this:

‘You must not make any patient doubt the knowledge or skills of colleagues or other health care professionals by making unnecessary or unfounded comments about them, either privately or publicly, for example through social media.’

This guidance could be used as part of an investigation into the complaint.

Another example, and this is very difficult to prevent, is when an ophthalmologist says to a patient who has had regular eye examinations: ‘Where have you been? You’ve had this for years.’ Or: ‘I can’t believe it’s taken this long for you to be referred.’ Or: ‘If only you’d been referred last year; I could have saved the vision in that eye. It’s too late now.’ Or: ‘The optometrist should have known that.’

It’s not always bad. There was an occasion when an ophthalmologist verbally defended my clinical decision making when things went wrong shortly after an eye examination I conducted.

So, to avoid bad mouthing coming back to bite you and to create more positivity in your clinical setting it’s better on many levels not to respond to a patient’s negativity about another practitioner or to respond in a neutral or positive way.

Be positive about other practitioners and your team will think you are always positive about them. Be the person of whom others say: ‘She never says a bad thing about anyone.’.

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