How to Deal with Difficult Patients and Families

Dealing with difficult patients

As nurses, we always have to make sure that our patients get the best care possible but every now and then we need may need to deal with ‘difficult patients’. We also need to deal with their families and make sure they too are cared for and kept well-informed. But sometimes, we do experience difficult patients or families and may even get into disagreements with them. So how best to deal with difficult patients and families? Fairly often, difficulties arise because of misunderstandings and the tension that both patients and their families experience when they are in care. Here are some effective ways on how to deal with difficult patients and families:

1. Understand that it is not easy being a patient or a family member of a patient

Have you ever wondered what sort of patient you would be or how your family members would carry themselves out if you were in hospital. No one wants to be stuck in hospital for days, and to be taken care of by different strangers every eight to ten hours. They want to be out of hospital as much as you want to nurse them back to good health to discharge them. Try to understand that it’s really not easy being a patient nor to be a relative whose loved one is in critical condition. If as nurses we can get cranky under stress, it’s important to remember that those we care for are under significant stress themselves.

2. Show empathy

As a nurse, your role is to let the patients feel that you understand and care about them. You can show empathy by focusing your attention to your surroundings and to their feelings, expressions and actions. Show them that you are interested and that they are important.

3. Allow the patient to blow off steam

The situation may worsen if you just let your patient stay angry. One of the best things you could do is to let them calm down first before you give them your explanation. Remind yourself that they are not happy about being ill, so it’s best to just try your best to keep your cool while waiting for them to calm down.

4. Deal with impatience

Patients often have to wait for medication, to see the doctor, for results etc. Waiting can be nerve racking and patients may seem impatient.

5. Try not to wake patients unnecessarily

Yes, we all have to stick to those medication times and test times but have you tried clustering your nursing activities to try and allow your patients as much sleep as they possibly can get. How cranky do you get when you have slept. Just like you patients tend to get cranky when they haven’t slept and even worse is not sleeping because you are in in pain, which takes us to the next bit of advice

6. Pain management

No patient is going to get addicted to painkillers in a few days unless they already have addiction issues. So when deciding whether or not to administer that PRN, remember that every individuals pain threshold is different. A patient believing you are with holding their much needed pain medication is one sure way to get them angry. Pain in itself is a cause of annoyance and irritability so where you can do not compound their pain by making a subjective call on whether they need pain medication or not.

7. Be gentle

People who are gentle establish peace and are strong enough to remain calm and show restraint even when faced with difficult situations. Think before you respond to anything the patient says. Sometimes, people react too quickly without taking time to think about how their responses might affect others. If you are to respond, do it in a calm and kind manner. If you want to make the situation better, try to avoid negativity. Instead, focus on something that you can do to help the person.

8. Try not to argue

Trying not to argue doesn’t mean you should not voice your opinion. It only means you have to state your point in a decent and respectful manner. Be truthful of everything you say, and try not to think that you are always right. Communicating better and having a positive behaviour towards any issue will solve most matters.

9. Apologise for the inconvenience

Something must have gone wrong that may have caused the patient to be angry. It’s okay to accept it and apologise. Remember that as nurses our main goal is to restore the patient’s health.

Apologising will not make you less of a person; it will only show that you are strong and brave enough to accept your mistakes. It could also lessen any tension that may occur between you and your patients or their family members.

10. Try to settle issues immediately

Of course sometimes, no matter how hard you try there is no pleasing some patients or their families. it is best to work on the complaint as soon as you can. The patient or family member is angry for a reason. Make sure to take note of the details of their complaint and find time to fix it.