As a nurse, you’ve all had one of those days. You know, one of those days where you have a patient that is just rude, demanding, or difficult. There are many reasons why a patient is being unpleasant whether it can be attributed to a mental condition, or they are simply an unpleasant person. So as a nurse, how are you really supposed to deal with difficult patients?
It isn’t like nurses are allowed to fire or dismiss a patient like you could with a client in another profession.
Tips to Deal with Difficult Patients
Most difficult patients are the ones that are just plain old rude. They can be overbearing, demanding, or just flat out mean. Sometimes a medical condition or medication may be the reason for their behavior. Alzheimer’s patients may be irritable due to their condition. Other patients may be taking medications that produce irritability as a side effect. But of course, there are those patients that there is no found reason for their difficult behavior.
As a nurse, you know you are going to have those patients that are just hard to work with. Here are a couple tips to help our nurses deal with difficult patients.
1. Identify Underlying Causes
While this is not always possible, sometimes there is an organic reason that can cause irritability in a patient. There are many medications that can cause irritability. So, you will want to look at the medications your patient is on to identify if they could be the cause.
A patient may be difficult due to a mental or cognitive impairment. Mood disturbances and behavior changes can happen due to a number of diseases and neurodegenerative conditions. In this case, medication may help improve the patient’s mood.
2. Try Not to Take It Personal
Try to remember that typically, a patient is not actually upset with you. If a patient is berating you, you may easily forget that you are not personally doing anything wrong. It can be hard to not take it personally, but not taking anything said personally is one way to deal with difficult patients.
Also, try not to get emotionally upset. It is important to try and remain calm when you are dealing with a difficult patient. This includes not becoming too defensive or being pulled into an argument. The last thing you want to do is let something the patient said to you affect you emotionally and cloud your judgment or react in a negative way that you may regret.
3. Patient Prioritization
Sometimes with you deal with difficult patients, they may want you to put their needs above your other patients. They may try to pressure you to deal with them before you make your other rounds. When this happens, assess the needs of the patient. If it is not urgent, let them know it will take fifteen or twenty minutes until you can take care of it. You don’t have to lower the care of your other patients for a difficult patient.
4. Do Not Accept Violence or Abuse
With everything that I’ve written, you might think that I want you to just let your patients say whatever they would like to you. That is certainly not the case. Sometimes people are rude with their words but other times they are downright verbally abusive. If a patient continues to verbally assault you after asking them to stop, you probably want to get a supervisor involved to determine your next course of action.
Also, NEVER accept violence from a patient. There is a growing epidemic of violence against nurses, so nurses and their healthcare organizations should have steps in place to eliminate the risks of patient-to-nurse violence, and a reporting procedure for any violence towards a nurse.
Dealing With It
It’s hard for nurses to deal with difficult patients. Sometimes, it may feel like the hardest part of your job. As frustrating as it is, remember that you are a nurse. Even if your compassion, respect, and understanding don’t seem to mean anything to the patient, you still have to give the patient your all.
The next time you have a tough patient, use some of these tips so you can make it through the day. Perhaps you’re a seasoned travel nurse that has some tips about how you deal with difficult patients? If so, we’d definitely love to share more tips with our readers, so feel free to tell your story in the comments below!