5 Tips for Dealing with Distressed Patients
Dealing with distressed patients may be difficult, especially if you’re new to the job. Although it’s understandable why they feel and act the way they do, managing it — along with a slew of other problems the profession brings — is still difficult for any healthcare professional in today's industry landscape.
Unfortunately this is going to become more of a common occurrence due to doctor shortages in the US. One reason for this is the increasing number of senior patients which has meant that healthcare institutes are stretched, and this problem will get only worse in the future. Statistics gathered by Maryville University reveal an impending physician shortage of approximately 100,000 by 2025, as well as an increasingly complex healthcare system and rising quality demands from patients and institutions alike. This all means that learning how to deal with distressed patients is more crucial than ever.
In this regard, expect a test not only of your patience, but of your compassion and communication skills, too. Here, we’ll list several ways you can diffuse the situation and keep your cool at the same time.
Learn to recognize the signs
Before anything, learn to recognize the tell-tale signs of a patient getting angry. This includes noticing their body language — be on the lookout for tension in their jawline or a steady rise in their voice. This will give you time to diffuse the situation before it gets out of hand.
On the other hand, you also need to determine when you are getting angry, too. Healthline explains that noticing both physical and emotional changes in yourself are equally important when handling distressed patients. These hints can include common signs such as headaches, profuse sweating, anxious feelings, resentfulness, or craving vices that can relax you.
Breathe and stay calm
Once you notice significant changes in your patient’s behavior, it’s best to prepare by detaching yourself from the situation. Keeping cool will let you answer their questions as best as you can, and will help avoid further comments or anger. If you’re someone who has difficulty in keeping control, ground yourself by squeezing your hands tightly or taking deep breaths.
Practice active listening
Sometimes, patients get angry because they feel like they’re not being heard or understood. The best way to combat this is through active listening. Researchers from the University of Central Florida found that receiving active listening responses makes people feel more understood, as compared to just being given advice.
So, listen to what they have to say, and repeat it back to them to demonstrate that you do, indeed, hear and understand them. Moreover, one of our Ten Steps to Build Rapport with Your Patients includes acknowledging rising frustration with verbal and non-verbal cues. This includes simple steps like giving the appropriate touch and providing positive statements and encouragement.
Dealing with especially difficult patients sometimes requires backup. Don’t hesitate to ask your fellow nurses or doctors to help with the situation, and when you do, remember that this not an indication of failure. Angry patients are not a reflection of your actions, and it is not your fault if you ever need help.
Shake it off
You’re certainly doing your best, but patients are often not rational when they are angry. Thus, don’t take their anger to heart. Take a moment to breathe and let the feelings go, and don’t let it ruin your entire day. Dealing with distressed patients is part of the job, and it’s important to remind yourself that these people are going through a hard time. Be empathetic, and acknowledge that you have the strength and skill to let it pass.
Working in the healthcare industry isn’t easy, and difficult patients are inevitable. But don’t let them bring you down. Learn to accept things that you cannot change, and follow these steps when things are proving difficult. With practice, you’ll be able to handle even the most challenging of patients with grace and professionalism.
Exclusively written for PalmariusUSA.Com
By: Ella Maisie
For more information on improving quality of care or patient experience at your facility, use the contact form below.