Dealing with Difficult Patients

It isn’t always easy to keep your sanity as a nurse. Amid the late-night shifts and busy workloads, difficult patients can compound the stress you’re already experiencing. In nursing more than most other professions, patience is a virtue. If you maintain the right frame of mind and keep your cool, you’ll be prepared to give them the help they need.

Due to their illnesses, patients often become frustrated with their conditions and the quality of care they receive, and generally uncomfortable in the hospital environment. Identify the ones who you believe will give you the most trouble based on their circumstances. For example, patients suffering from dementia are unable to rationally process what’s going on around them, so reasoning with them isn’t an option. Patients who are enduring terminal illnesses might take out their frustration on their nurses. Try to understand their perspective and have thick skin. Explain their misbehavior and ask them nicely to stop. Talk them through your procedure and establish a personal connection. In other words, don’t be a cold nurse; be a caregiver. If you commit time to them by hearing out their rational complaints, you’ll be more likely to earn their trust and respect.

When a patient is just too difficult to deal with on your own, seek help from your fellow staff members. Perhaps they’ll get along with one another. Some patients are simply more comfortable with different nurses; it’s not unlike when you’re more comfortable with a certain doctor. An example would be when a male patient needs a physical; he might be uncomfortable performing all of the tests with a female nurse. Give them the respect they deserve and honor a change if they request it. On the other hand, if they disrespect you mercilessly and it affects your ability to do your job, don’t put up with it. Remember that your ultimate duty is to improve their health and not make them happy. If they assault you physically, seek assistance to restrain them. Never fight back and refrain from bullying behavior to compensate. When dealing with them in the future, have a fellow nurse stand by. During the beginning of your career, the challenge of treating difficult patients is daunting, but as you gain experience, you’ll learn to take it in stride.