Strategies for Dealing With Difficult Patients

Posted by Adam Rapp | Nursing

Apr 15, 2019

As a nurse, you inevitably will have to deal with difficult patients from time to time. To help, familiarize yourself with these proven strategies that are guaranteed to make these situations easier to handle.

This guest post was created by Paul Priceman. At eMedCert, we strongly encourage all forms of guest posting. If you are interested in publishing your work on the eMedCert blog, please contact our editorial team at [email protected].


Healthcare professionals deal with all types of people. They often treat people of varied personalities, and of all stages of life. Some patients are not hard to deal with. They’re polite, soft-spoken, and cheerful. Others are slightly more negative, usually due to illness or just plain moodiness.


But then there are those that are not merely negative; they’re downright difficult to deal with. Whether it’s that this patient has a tendency to get violent when upset, or throws full-blown temper tantrums when it’s time to take their meds, these patients are often not as enjoyable to treat. Sometimes, you may even feel that you just can’t do it; it’s too difficult, and too tiring.


Strategies for Dealing With Difficult Patients | eMedCert


But before you quit and toss your nursing shoes to the back of your closet and throw out your scrub pants, man up. There are quite a number of proven strategies which have helped many experienced medical professionals to endure these trying episodes relatively easily, and sometimes even win the patient over so that he’ll never push your buttons like that again.


Here are a few of your options to get through such ordeals:


Be Confident.


In life, if you want people to respect you and listen to what you say, you need confidence to back your words. Individuals in authoritative positions, such as teachers, CEO’s, and healthcare professionals, who are lacking this crucial characteristic and aren’t aware of the adage, “Fake it till you make it,” often have trouble getting those under their lead to follow their directions. When you have a difficult patient that you need to deal with, take care to ensure that you’re projecting confidence.


Stay Calm


The calmer the professional, the calmer the patient. It's hard to have an argument with someone who remains maddeningly calm. If you have a patient who tries to press your buttons, it may be hard to remain impassive, or even just outwardly so, but do your best. This will allow your patient to simmer down, or at least see that however negative or boiling mad he’s feeling isn’t going to change you in the least, so he won’t feel like working himself up as much.


Don’t Take It Personally


Understand that you’re not the problem. If you’re a male nurse, and a female patient isn’t interested in your care, you can still stand tall in your scrub pants. If a patient tells you that you’re totally uncaring and undevoted, even though you’re doing your absolute best to help this individual to recover, still, remember: Most likely, it’s not you; you’re not at fault. It’s the patient.


Stay Cheerful


A patient’s mood can sometimes be a reflection of the professionals, to an extent. And when you come into the patient’s room with a smile on your face and a cheerful demeanor, you may just get a smile in return! And even if you don’t at first, just keep smiling. Many patients appreciate having a happy person around during trying times.


An added benefit of smiling is that it can trick your brain into feeling happier, so if you’re feeling down yourself, smiling at your patients can lift your own spirits!


Feel for Them


A patient can be going through an extremely difficult life circumstance. Before judging a patient, keep this in mind. No matter who the person is and what his background may be, he’s going through a difficult time, and you’re not seeing him at his best.


Through implementing all or most of these strategies during your interactions with difficult patients, when things flare up, you’ll have an easier time calming things down, and besides, it’s quite likely that the patient will be impressed by your self-respect, and will therefore be less likely to treat you disrespectfully.