Top Tips for Allied Health Professionals to Deal With Difficult Patients

Patients come in all shapes and sizes and temperaments. While there are a few, who form an everlasting bond with us, there are some other patients who we can’t wait to get rid of.

Healthcare professionals have a hard time dealing with such patients. They appear angry, nagging, and sometimes simply impossible. But they have come for treatment, and it is the system’s duty and responsibility to provide them with the best care and support.

While the medicines and the machines will do their work on these individuals, how can you make your task a tad bit easier? How can you manage to have positive and effective interactions with such people? We uncover some useful tips for health professionals to deal with difficult patients.

The Anger Is Not directed at You – Don’t Take It Personally

When someone is screaming, and using foul language, and being outright hostile to you, it is hard not to take it personally. However, do understand that this insulting and angry behaviour is not directed at you. Patients can be angry and frustrated for a number of reasons. Maybe they are in a lot of pain, maybe no one has come to meet them in a really long time, maybe they are simply bored out of their wits, or unhappy with the treatment meted out in the hospital. Boredom, frustration, agony, pain, and loneliness can easily find access through anger and hostility. And you become the victim of that hostility.

In all or most cases, the hostile way a person behaves with you is not personal. In fact sometimes, they don’t know you at all. So try not to feel all flared up and insulted. While the medical pros have learned this and mastered patience and empathy over time, the relatively newer healthcare professionals often need to master the technique. Even if a person is shouting or using foul language, don’t react. Let him get done with the cathartic stream of anger, and then deal with him in a rational manner.

Use a reassuring but firm tone, and make it clear to the patient that you understand his frustration, but such behaviour is not acceptable in the clinical institute premises.

Don’t Judge and Give Up

It is difficult to not have opinions about people you are interacting with. In the healthcare field, you will meet a few patients who are probably at the facility due to alcohol addictions, drug overuse and other such harmful addictions.

They may still have relapses, not comply with their treatment, completely disobey you, or refuse to take their medicines. It would be an obvious reaction for you to get annoyed and feel that they just don’t want to recover. Restrain from those feelings and keep investing in your patients no matter how reckless they may seem.

The moment the patient senses that you are getting judgmental, it will make him make him more weary and rebellious. Putting aside your personal feelings and helping the patient out under all circumstances should be your first priority. Unless the push really comes to a shove, do not engage in any conflict or a duel of words with the patients. It will only make matters worse.

Convey Empathy and Understanding

The most difficult of patients can also be turned around with understanding and empathy. Do try to put yourself in their shoes. You are probably meeting these people in their most difficult time.

Be empathetic towards your patients, and more importantly convey that understanding and empathy through your words and messages. ‘I understand’, ‘your anger is obvious’, ‘please tell me your problem’, ‘let me help you’ are words that convey compassion and reassurance to the patients and can actually help them calm down and open up to you.

Eliminate the Cause of Anger

Being a healthcare professional is an amalgamation of both logic and emotion. Apply both to your patients. Difficult patients are so for a reason. Try to find out the root cause of their behaviour, and try and develop solutions to them. You may notice while administering some drug that it triggers a particular reaction in the individual, like moodiness or irritation. You may find out that he does not like the food being served, or is experiencing anxiety and loneliness, and hence the edginess.

If you as a medical assistant or healthcare professional manage to find out this root cause and eliminate the source of turmoil, you will have a much more relaxed and calmer patient, and your work will become that much more easier.

Take Care of Yourself

In extreme cases, a difficult or weary patient may pose danger to the medical professional himself or herself. Some patients are very aggressive and violent and the medical settings make them even more so. Watch out for signs from these patients, like clenching of fists, strongly withdrawn brows and the likes. Retreat and call for security when any patient gets physically violent. Don’t try to deal with them all by yourself. Keep your own safety in mind, and also prevent the patient from hurting himself or herself.

Kindness Helps

Make a genuine attempt to treat your patients with care, compassion and kindness. Care for them not simply like a sick individual, but like a dear friend or family. Be reassuring and comforting to all your patients. Cut the difficult ones some slack. Maybe you are seeing them at their worst. Soon, you will find that you are actually beginning to understand your patients better and they are gradually warming up to you.

Get Professionally Trained

After completing my Medical Assistant Program in Connecticut, I realized that professional training from a good institute not just betters your career prospects, but also makes you a more well-equipped and sensitive medical professional who is more adaptable and able to cope with the myriad situations and multiple challenges of the medical world.

The above tips can be very helpful for medical professionals in dealing with difficult patients. Let us know if these were helpful. If you have some other recommendations for the same, do mention them in the comments section and make lives a little easier for the medical professionals.