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How To Deal With Difficult Patients
For Nurses • 3 Jul 2023
As healthcare professionals, we understand the vital role of developing relationships with our patients. However, we will undoubtedly come face-to-face with patients who challenge us. These difficult patients could be anxious, angry, uncooperative, or non-compliant. Whatever the reason, it is our responsibility to manage difficult patients in a professional and compassionate manner. In this blog post, we will explore effective strategies for managing difficult patients and keeping our composure throughout the process.
- Listen Actively and Empathise
As healthcare professionals, our first priority should be to listen to our patients actively. Patients often feel powerless and frustrated, and they want someone to hear them. Patients who seem difficult may need someone to listen and empathise with them. By putting ourselves in their shoes and offering support, we can create a better patient experience. We can also avoid misunderstandings that result from not listening to the patient's concerns.
- Set Boundaries and Expectations
We must make clear what behaviours are acceptable in our clinic or hospital. Setting boundaries early on helps patients understand what is expected of them and that there are limits to their behaviour. If they cross these boundaries, it is our responsibility to correct them firmly but respectfully. When dealing with difficult patients, setting expectations and reinforcing them is essential. They must know what they can do and what will not be tolerated.
- Find Common Ground and Discuss Alternatives
Sometimes, patients have different views about treatment plans or medications. They could be resistant or hesitant due to cultural differences, previous negative experiences, misleading information from unverified sources, or personal bias. In such cases, we should explore alternatives that accommodate their specific needs. Finding common ground and engaging patients as partners in their healthcare might be helpful. If not, it may be necessary to seek second opinions or refer them to other professionals.
- Keep a Positive Attitude
While dealing with difficult patients, it is natural to feel angry, frustrated, or discouraged. It may be challenging to maintain a positive attitude during the discussion. However, a positive attitude can prevent conflicts from escalating and help us make progress. To keep a positive attitude it's important to be respectful, acknowledge concerns, and offer solutions. Using positive body language and a polite tone of voice can also help.
- Debrief and Reflect
After the encounter, it's helpful to debrief the situation or discuss it with a trusted colleague, friend, or family member. Reflection can help us learn from our experiences and determine how to improve our skills going forward. Recognising our strengths and opportunities for growth through self-reflection can help us develop trust and improve patient satisfaction.
In conclusion, dealing with difficult patients is a challenging yet important aspect of our profession. By employing the strategies discussed in this blog post, we can ensure that we maintain positive relationships with difficult patients, all the while delivering quality patient care with professionalism and empathy. Remember, every interaction is an opportunity to learn and grow as a healthcare professional. With practice and patience, you can handle these situations with ease.