7 Tips on How to Handle Difficult Patients
Working as a nurse means dealing with different kinds of patients, even the rude ones. You must know how to handle difficult patients to become an extraordinary nurse.
Why are some patients rude?
Several factors make a patient hard to handle. It could be due to the stress of the illness or the tensions they feel from being inside a hospital. Sometimes, patients can be distressed, angry, scared, demanding, or have unrealistic treatment expectations for their needs. However, some of these behaviors may also be due to their past experiences in terms of medical treatment.
How to Deal with Difficult Patients
As a nurse, you cannot avoid patients that can test your nerves. However, you can also find ways to deal with them. Here’s how:
Tip 1. Don’t fight fire with fire.
One of the first things you must understand is that patients are sick and need your help, not the other way around. As a healthcare professional, you must try not to respond in anger or reactive behavior; keep your professional face on. A patient’s offense may not originate from when they were at the hospital but perhaps triggered by something that might have happened in their life. Try to be as patient and understanding as you can. Showing respect is still the right thing to do.
Tip 2. Listen to them.
Sometimes, an angry patient will tell their story once they have calmed down. Showing concern for a patient is one of the best ways to calm someone who is being difficult. When they do, give them undivided attention and listen to what they are talking about. Be sure to collect your thoughts before speaking to them too. Address them by their first name, acknowledge their concern, talk slowly and maintain eye contact when talking to them. Avoid mirroring their words; this could trigger them and may even turn defensive again.
Tip 3. Take note of your body language.
Sometimes, actions speak louder than words. That said, be mindful of your body language when dealing with a difficult patient. When a patient is angry, they will also find a way to push your buttons. In return, you become mad yourself. It will be easier to deal with a difficult patient if you do your best to remember not to take it personally. Being mindful about how you react is crucial. It will also help you choose the right words to say, use the tone of your voice, body language, and overall response.
Tip 4. Acknowledge the situation at hand.
Learn to acknowledge the situation. Most importantly, recognize how your patient feels. You can start by saying, “I understand how you feel” or “I feel like we have a misunderstanding.” As you do, keep your feelings aside and stay calm. Avoid using negative words that could escalate the situation.
Tip 5. Setting the boundaries.
Patients go to the hospital because they need attention, no doubt about that. However, if you keep giving in to their demands, how can you give attention to your other patients? Be clear with your boundaries. Let them know that their abuse is unacceptable. Make sure to set a time limit, say 15 minutes, then tell them you will see them in the next 30. As you continue to practice this with them, they will soon realize that you have a busy schedule and empathize with your situation.
Tip 6. Provide a Patient’s Satisfaction Survey.
This survey will allow your patients to share any of their concerns. Tell them that you value their feedback seriously. It also prevents them from leaving bad reviews online.
Tip 7. Stay proactive.
There is no use ignoring the problem. Avoiding a problematic patient won’t work either. So stay proactive, acknowledge your patient’s situation, identify the source of their anger, and be sure to implement steps to de-escalate the problem. The more you understand the case, the better it is for you to handle difficult patients.
There will always be unruly patients wherever you go. They will come to you with various ailments, mood disorders, fears, and other complications. You must also understand that they come from diverse backgrounds and live different lifestyles that you may disagree with. But it is part of the job, after all. As a nurse, stay professional; you were trained in this field, so use your nursing knowledge and abilities to provide them with the quality care they deserve.