How to Deal With Rude Patients as a Nurse – Overview
As a nurse, you deal with rude patients regularly. Sometimes, it’s best to just smile and nod — rolling your eyes at a demanding patient will only worsen your situation.
Nevertheless, there are other times when you’ll need to stand up for yourself — and even your co-workers. Here then are some helpful tips for dealing with rude patients:
1. Don’t Take it Personally (Yeah! Easier to Say Than Done)
Most of the time, patients aren’t being rude to be mean. They’re simply frustrated with their situation or the way they’re being treated by the medical staff.
If they were in your shoes, they would probably want you to be understanding, as well.
You can reduce the chance of encountering a rude patient by understanding their needs before they come into the hospital.
That way, you’ll feel better about addressing their issues instead of feeling that you’re letting them down because you don’t have all the answers.
2. Be Assertive
You don’t have to put up with bad behavior from anyone. If a patient is being difficult or offensive, try saying something like “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “That must be upsetting.”
Then change the subject and talk about something else — anything else — until they calm down.
This lets them know how they’re behaving without getting into an argument with them.
You can also try asking questions that are open-ended “How do you feel?” rather than the yes/no questions “Are you in pain?” This gives them less room to complain and be negative.
3. Don’t Let It Slide
It can be easy to let a small comment or action from a patient go unnoticed — or even to laugh off an uncomfortable interaction with them.
However, if these actions begin to pile up, it might be time to speak up and address the problem head-on.
If nothing else, doing so will give you some peace of mind about how things should pan out.
4. Keep It Professional
A key to dealing with rude behavior is to remain calm and professional at all times. Yelling back at someone, even if they started it, only escalates the situation.
Most people are ready to listen when they realize they’ve made another person upset.
Keeping your voice low, not raising your voice, appearing angry, and not yelling will help you keep things under control when you’re dealing with an upset patient or their family.
5. Treat Patients Accordingly
Remember that every patient is unique, and as such, every situation is different. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with difficult patients.
As such, it is important to assess each situation individually and use common sense when approaching difficult situations
6. Document Incidents as They Happen
Keep a notebook handy so that when something happens you can write it down right away. Write down the time and date of the incident, who was involved, and exactly what was said or done.
This can be very helpful if your supervisor or human resources department ever needs proof of any incidents.
7. Keep Your Sense of Humor Intact
It’s easy to get angry when patients are rude, but if you do lose your cool it will only add fuel to the fire and make things worse for everyone involved.
Treat all rude comments with a calm response, even if inside you’re seething about being treated like that.
8. Turn the Situation Into a Teaching Moment
Sometimes a patient’s rudeness is due to his lack of understanding of what he’s facing.
If someone is rude because he doesn’t know how serious his condition is, try explaining things without being condescending or talking down to him.
9. Refer the Patient to Another Staff Member
Nurses can sometimes be caught off guard by outbursts from angry or frustrated patients and could end up saying something they regret.
If you feel like a confrontation is brewing, you can refer the patient to another staff member who may be better equipped to handle the situation, such as a security guard, social worker, or physician’s assistant.
As a nurse, you may be dealing with difficult patients more often than you think. The way you handle these situations can affect your reputation in the workplace and your relationships with other nurses.
When dealing with an angry patient, it’s best to stay calm. Don’t take things personally, and don’t let the patient get to you.
Try to understand where the person is coming from, but don’t change your professional demeanor.
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