DiversityNursing Blog

Tips Nurses Use To Help Deal With Difficult Patients

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Thu, Aug 03, 2017 @ 11:18 AM

20161006.jpgYou might be a recent graduate and are worried about what to do when you get a difficult patient or maybe you are an experienced Nurse and are looking for new tips or ideas to try. We created a list of ways Nurses avoid or diffuse challenging situations with patients.

1. Don’t take it personally

It’s easy to think a difficult patient is upset with you personally, but that’s almost never the case, according to Julianne Haydel, veteran nurse turned nurse consultant at Haydel Consulting Services.

Remember that the patient is dealing with unfortunate circumstances and likely isn’t in the best mood. Continue to do your job and don’t let their negativity get in your head. “Just knowing that the nastiness is not about you is a good start,” says Haydel.

2. Stay Calm

When dealing with trying patients, the best approach is to remain calm. Remember that the patient is not attacking you personally, but rather acting out on feelings of anxiety, a perceived lack of attention or resistance to what has happened to them. Remaining calm will allow you to keep control and address the patient in a way that will defuse the situation.

3. Show that you care

Sometimes difficult patients make a fuss about minor requests because they feel like no one is listening to them. Set aside your frustration with the patient and do what you can to meet their needs, as long as it doesn’t take away from other patients’ level of care.

Nurse Angelis recalls swallowing his pride and getting a second cup of coffee for a particularly irritable patient: “I stayed gracious and her whole demeanor changed. She just wanted to know that someone cared and she wasn’t going to be ignored.”

4. Set Boundaries

When it comes to difficult patients who make seemingly endless or unreasonable demands, a useful approach is to set limits. Let them know you will check on them again in 15 minutes or a half hour, and then follow through. In some situations, you’ll need to set boundaries to keep yourself safe. Doing so can help avoid escalating anger.

5. Realign Your Body Language  

Charlene Berube, chair of the undergraduate nursing program at Simmons School of Nursing and Health Sciences in Boston says, “When I start to get frustrated because I’m not making progress with a patient, I take little breaths." Berube also says, “We both need to refocus at that time. If the patient is becoming demanding, and I’m getting frazzled, those energies need to be refocused. And when you do that, your body language realigns.”

Patients come to nurses with mental health issues, mood disorders, depressions, anxiety and a host of other complications. They have lives or lifestyles that you may not understand or even agree with.  But none of that matters.  Each patient deserves the best nursing care you can give them. Remember that you need to find the calm in yourself, be objective and be honest with them. Showing empathy and giving them your undivided attention and time could make a big difference in their attitude and soften those hard edges.

If you have other tips or advice please comment below we would love to hear what you have to say!

sign up for newsletter

Topics: difficult patients, Nursing tips

Click me

Article or Blog Submissions

If you are interested in submitting content for our Blog, please ensure it fits the criteria below:
  • Relevant information for Nurses
  • Does NOT promote a product
  • Informative about Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Competence

Agreement to publish on our DiversityNursing.com Blog is at our sole discretion.

Thank you

Subscribe to Email our eNewsletter

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all