There’s little doubt that you’ll encounter cranky patients from time to time. While it's understandable that patients who are feeling unwell, have lost their independence, or are experiencing stress and anxiety will sometimes lose control of their emotions, it doesn't mean it's going to be a piece of cake for you either. These distraught patients can test your compassion, communication skills, and patience. Let's look at the ways in which we can offset negative experiences with positive outcomes.
It's always best to remember not to take a cranky patient too personally as it's not meant as a direct attack on you or your abilities, but more a case of their worries or anxieties. By remaining calm, you help to reinforce your role as their medical professional while also defusing any situation from getting out of hand. Learning to recognize the signs of a distressed patient early on can also help avoid any altercations, look for clenched fists, tightened jaw, or any other abrupt change in personality.
Have a chat
Often a cranky patient just wants to feel as though they're being heard and understood. Consider talking through their feelings or concerns to see if you can get to the root of the problem. Active listening may also prove most effective, such as; maintaining eye contact, speaking softly, and using the patient's name when addressing them. We recommend replacing any negative language with a "can-do" attitude to help patients feel at ease. Such as; "What can I do to make you more comfortable?" or "We will find a solution!"
You’ve got this!
While it's completely normal to feel upset after an unpleasant interaction with a patient, try and not let it get to you. Take a deep breath and release those feelings of stress and anger. Remind yourself that your patient is most likely in pain or full of anxiety and worry, and it's never a personal attack on you. Nursing isn't easy, and cranky patients don't make it any easier, but the reward you'll receive in the end by helping someone through a tough time always outweighs the negatives.
How do you deal with difficult patients?
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