When you hear the words “service job,” you probably think about a restaurant worker or a retail employee. These tend to be jobs that don’t require much prior training, and they might be held by teenagers or college students who are on just there temporarily. With all of that said, you probably wouldn’t think of a medical professional as working in the customer service industry.

But think about it this way: usually, service jobs are those that deliver goods and services to the public on demand. They meet an immediate need that the customer has. Now that’s starting to sound a lot more like what a doctor does, right? And while anyone can, in theory, get one service job or another, it takes someone awfully special to excel at it. Customer service requires a very specific set of skills, whether the setting is a department store or a doctor’s office.

Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals have to work with the public on a daily basis. Not only that, but they’re usually seeing people in less than ideal circumstances: they’ve had to miss work, their kids are sick, they’re waiting on a mystery diagnosis…the list goes on. Medical workers see people at their lowest points, and those people often look to them as anchors in their personal storms. They need someone to empathize with them, to understand what they need, and to help them get better. These are important skills for any customer service worker to have, and doctors and nurses are no exception.

On the other hand, when people are stressed, afraid, or not feeling well, they tend to lash out at whoever is around them. That often ends up being the doctor or nurse who’s trying to help them. The ability to read a situation, anticipate patient needs, and keep the person feeling calm and safe is vital for any medical professional. Retail workers often have to handle irate customers, and doctors or nurses may have to deal with angry patients. It’s all part of the job, but it’s not easy, and it takes a lot of poise to handle gracefully.

While medical professionals provide life-saving care to the patients who cross their doors, it helps to remember that they’re first and foremost providing a service, and as such, they’ll have to handle some sticky customer situations on occasion. Cultivating strong customer service skills will go a long way towards helping your practice to run smoothly and making sure that everyone is feeling better at the end of the day.