Tips for Dealing with Difficult Patients

March 2, 2016
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Tips for Dealing With Difficult PatientsIn an ideal world, your patients would all be polite and pleasant. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. If you work in healthcare, it’s inevitable you will have to deal with difficult patients.

Tips for Dealing With Difficult PatientsIn an ideal world, your patients would all be polite and pleasant. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. If you work in healthcare, it’s inevitable you will have to deal with difficult patients. From the patient who is cursing you to patients who are impossible to please, you’re likely to see it all.

It’s important to remember that people are often not at their best when they are sick in the hospital. They may be scared, confused, and depressed. While you don’t expect your patients to be the life of the party, some people are more than just unpleasant. There are several things to remember when dealing with difficult patients that may make the situation easier.

The Non-Compliant Patient

Some patients refuse treatment, sneak out to smoke, or are uncooperative. Non-compliant patients are frustrating because they are not doing what they need to get better. However, it’s important to remember that patients have rights, even if that involves making bad choices.

What You Can Do: Your job is to educate and offer the prescribed treatment. You can’t force therapy, treatment, or medications. You can make sure your patient understands the need for medical care and the consequences for refusing. In these situations, it’s important to document everything thoroughly.

The Overly Needy Patient

It’s normal for patients to use their call button and require assistance, but some patients call for help for every little thing, which can make it difficult to get your work done.

What You Can Do: Try to figure out what the problem is. Maybe your patient is bored, lonely, or a little scared. Never ignore a patient, even if he or she appears to be overly needy. Instead, after you have provided care and there is nothing else the patient needs from you, consider offering books, a movie, or a visit from the Chaplin or therapy dog.

The Know-it-All

You know the type – the patient who corrects everything you do. While a  patient should be involved in his or her care, the know-it-all patient can be misinformed and try to micromanage his/her care. These types of patients may question everything you do, and still want it done their way.

What you can do: Try not to get upset when a patient challenges you. Calmly reassure the patient and explain what you are doing. Providing information and not getting defensive may gain your patient’s trust.

The Angry Patient  

Some patients are never happy. Eventually, you may run into a rude patient who is mad at the world. Even if you are doing your best to help this type of patient, it may never be good enough.

What you can do: Speak calmly, and don’t get caught up in an argument. You won’t win, and you’ll only make things worse. Do your best to diffuse the situation and show empathy. Let your patient know you are concerned about how he feels.  Keep in mind, if a patient seems combative or is becoming increasingly hostile, it’s time to get assistance. Don’t hesitate to call security.

A Few More Tips

Lastly, there are a few additional things to keep in mind when you are caring for difficult patients.

Listen to your patient’s concerns: If your patient is upset, listening to what he/she has to say may ease tensions. Sometimes people just what to know they are understood. You may find an easy fix to the problem.

Communicate clearly: When patients are upset, it’s easy for them to misunderstand something. Now is not the time to use medical jargon or skirt the issue. Be sensitive to language and cultural barriers, and speak in terms your patient will understand.

Take a deep breath: It’s human to get frustrated when you have difficult patients. It’s also easy to take things personally when a patient is rude, but it’s also helpful to keep perspective. Remember, you walked into the hospital voluntarily; you weren’t brought in on a gurney. Your patient is probably having a lot worse day than you are. So take a deep breath, and try to cut your patient a little slack.

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