Nursing is a profession that revolves around satisfying patients and helping them overcome medical problems this customer-centered approach means that you will be interacting with patients with high expectations regularly.
These expectations are often unrealistic, and patients get dissatisfied and angered. Anxiety, distress, pain, self-blame, and a poor experience with prior healthcare providers can make patients overly demanding and violent.
They may also express this through aggression by refusing to follow instructions, expressing hostility, and deliberately delaying assigned tasks. In many situations, patients resist treatment or misbehave, and how the nurse responds has significant implications for the overall outcome.
Often poor communication, defensiveness or retaliating anger, and lack of understanding by the healthcare providers can escalate the situation.
As a nurse, you should know the responsibilities and duties to prevent this outcome. To provide the best possible care to all patients, monitor your responses and follow the advice given below:
There may be some aspects of your personality that are likely to shape your responses in ways that can escalate the situation unnecessarily. Self-awareness will help you acknowledge these and control them. Be familiar with the biases, feelings, emotions, and triggers likely to interfere in heated situations.
Perhaps you get touchy when someone insults women because of a childhood experience knowing this tendency, you will be able to monitor your reaction if a difficult patient breaches your personal space or the topic.
Similarly, if you know that a childhood experience made you sensitive to violent situations, your reaction might be unexpected or unprofessional when faced with violence.
If you faced problems handling such situations in the past, you should educate yourself in handling such complex cases.
An MSN in Nursing Education will equip you with training exercises and advanced nursing skills to handle complex patients and communicate with them to produce productive outcomes.
2. Don’t Take Things to Heart
It is not personal when a patient lashes out there is usually underlying distress or suppressed anger that you didn’t know about.
Patients are usually distressed, upset, and in pain they aren’t in the best of moods. So, if they see someone around them, they vent out their anger and frustrations.
If you retaliate with the same aggression, you will only worsen the situation. Instead, keep yourself focused on understanding the patient’s problem without making any assumptions and getting offended.
Express genuine concern and care for all patients, regardless of the circumstances. Compassion is the foundation of careers like nursing because they revolve around serving people.
3. Control Your Body Language and Interpret Theirs
Your body language says more about your attitude than words how you converse nonverbally can trigger or suppress any escalation. Sit down if possible, as this suggests that you have the time to listen and are willing to give the patient time to speak freely.
If the patient is attempting to evoke a reaction from you, don’t let any anger show in your body language. If they notice they’re succeeding in pushing your buttons, the problematic behavior might increase. Remember, your body language lets the patient know that they can’t provoke you.
At the same time, also keep note of the patient’s non-verbal cues. For instance, dilation of the eyes indicates that they are in problem-solving mode. Make use of this by discussing treatment options and goals, as this is when they will be listening attentively. When you notice that something you say causes the patient to tense, immediately backtrack and rephrase it.
Looking away indicates submission with difficult patients, note their family dynamics using this cue to see who they’re likely to listen to most and convey the message.
4. Listen Attentively
When a patient is difficult, there is usually a root cause behind the behavior. You can catch this if you listen attentively and give them the time to vent out.
Giving the patient time conveys compassion and fosters trust. When talking, be gentle, keep eye contact, don’t interrupt, and don’t express defensiveness or anger. After that, let the patient calm down and then address the issue.
Listening attentively also lets you identify distress or pain that might ultimately express itself in disruptive behavior. Identify escalation cues so that you can intervene and ease the patient before it gets worse.
5. Don’t Tolerate Abuse Under Any Condition
As surprising as it may sound, around 38% of all health workers, according to the World Health Organization, experience physical abuse.
Problematic patient behavior can quickly escalate to abuse, often characterized by pushing, name-calling, threatening, and striking, to more severe crimes like stalking and sexual harassment.
Never tolerate abuse of any level; yes, you should be compassionate and caring but don’t forget that abuse crosses a line.
Remember that if the patient refuses to stop after you have clarified that it isn’t acceptable, you have the right to alert the authorities. If there is any physical threat from a patient, don’t hesitate to call in hospital security.
6. Don’t Lose Your Composure
In a healthcare setting, you are the professional, and you shouldn’t be the one to lose your calm. Patients might lash out and become verbally aggressive, but you should avoid getting offended and remain calm. Patients expect healthcare providers to support them in difficult times and look to them for answers when confused.
7. Don’t Engage in a Power Struggle
Patients who are being difficult are likely to provoke you with questions that challenge your authority. Especially when you try to tell a patient what to do and what not to, as per the doctor’s instructions, they tend to get defensive and might respond with things like ‘who are you to tell me what to do?’
When faced with such challenges, ignore the question and proceed. Engaging in a power struggle will only escalate the situation.
Nursing is no walk in the park you encounter patients from various backgrounds and temperaments. Occasionally, you might be assigned to a difficult patient who refuses to listen to instructions, gets verbally abusive, or tries to make your job troublesome.
Knowing how to deal with such situations is crucial as your response will influence the outcomes. Remember not to take things personally, be self-aware, listen to the patients’ concerns, control your body language, maintain composure and never give in to provocation. Being adept at such interaction is an excellent skill that you should work on.
John Davis is a passionate content writer with a knack for crafting engaging narratives across various subjects. With a keen eye for detail and a love for storytelling, John brings ideas to life through the power of words. His dedication to delivering high-quality and informative content has made him a trusted voice in the digital realm. When he’s not at his desk, you’ll find John exploring new hobbies and seeking inspiration in the world around him.