As a physician, nurse, clinician, or other healthcare professional, dealing with a difficult patient goes with the territory. But that doesn’t make the situation any easier.
Unhappy or difficult patients can create unpleasant situations that have a negative effect on not only you, but the rest of the attending staff when things don’t go their way.
The good news is there are methods to help handle the situation. Here are some tips on how to do your best with challenging patients.
Remember, it’s Not Personal
When a patient is angry, verbally abusive, confrontational or otherwise “difficult,” it can be challenging to keep your cool and step back from the situation. In some cases, you may actually question yourself, your decisions and even your abilities. Remember that for the patient, it’s often truly not personal. Pain, fear, a devastating diagnosis or other factors can be the true cause of the problem, not you.
What’s Making them Unhappy?
One of the reasons patients lash out is because they feel unheard. They’re scared and want to know that everything will be okay. That’s why listening to a patient’s vent can make them feel safe. It will help calm their anxieties. As health care practitioners, it’s important to communicate with the patients to help them understand their health condition better and improve their mental state.
Give yourself a Break
Sometimes, physically stepping away from a stressful situation and taking a breather is the best thing you can do. Go outside, grab a cup of coffee, check emails, and take a few minutes for yourself. Stepping away physically can sometimes help you step away emotionally and enable you to get a more detached perspective on what has happened.
Remember, you’re the Professional
Often, a patient will try to push all your buttons and try to test your patience. Experts recommend that you keep a positive but professional attitude. There are a lot of phrases and quotes that you can use to show understanding. It can help the patient trust you and communicate with you. According to a study, using metaphors and analogies help with physician-patient communications.
Set Some Clear Boundaries
As a health professional, you’ll come across many patients that are demanding. Experts recommend that you set boundaries during the initial meetings. It helps to avoid any mishaps. Most healthcare practitioners prefer the standardized approach for their patients – helping to set boundaries from day one and treat every patient equally.
A good way to gain a more objective perspective is to discuss the experience with a trusted colleague or mentor. While you should avoid the temptation simply to hammer home your own point of view and work yourself up again—talking the details over and getting someone else’s take can aid in productive reflection.
Focus on Caregiving
All patients deserve the best care you’re able to provide—even the difficult ones. Make it your main focus to deliver excellent, positive care to all of your patients. Even if a patient remains agitated, you’ll leave your shift knowing that you did your job to the best of your ability.
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