How To Deal With Difficult Patients: The Practical Tips You Should Know

angry patientHealthcare professionals often face challenges when dealing with difficult patients. To handle these situations successfully, it is important to have the necessary skills and knowledge to take on these interactions. This includes managing interactions confidently, prioritizing safety, and preventing potential conflicts from escalating.

Stay Calm When Unkind Things Are Said

While it is easy to feel upset or defensive when a patient starts asking questions about your credentials or makes comments about the treatment course you have set out for them, it is essential to remember that you are in control. Before causing the situation to become something more problematic, remember to remain calm and not allow yourself to become triggered by the things being said. In most cases, these patients are acting out because they are worried or stressed and misdirecting these feelings toward you.

Listen To the Patient

Before responding or making any comments to a patient, you want to first listen to everything they have to say. Only once they are done going over their situation should you begin interjecting your own comments. This approach will provide you with a better understanding of what is happening while also allowing you to come up with a proper response as you listen to what is going on with the patient.

Set Boundaries

Although it is important to show patients respect and kindness, it is equally important to set boundaries that can help safeguard your own physical and emotional well-being. For instance, if a patient’s behavior begins to become threatening or offensive, you need to calmly explain that you will not be treated that way, nor will you tolerate this type of abuse. If you need to, try walking away, and have another colleague take over the conversation with the patient on your behalf. This will provide everyone an opportunity to calm down while still making it clear to the patient they cannot act this way toward you.

Set Up a Plan To Deal With Dangerous Patients

Stressed out nurse or doctor with a coffee_sIt is important to plan ahead for not only combative patients but dangerous patients as well. While you should learn how to deal with angry or unreasonable individuals that come to see you, you should also prepare options for you to take if there is a patient you need to protect yourself from. To help you through these situations, consider having a panic button or setting up protocols that you and your team should take if you need to remove yourself from a dangerous situation.

At the end of the day, never accept violence as part of your job. Take steps to keep yourself and others safe.

Discharge the Patient from the Practice

Finally, when all else fails and de-escalation measures have not been successful, practitioners should seriously consider discharging the patient from the practice.  Continuing to treat unhappy or noncompliant patients pose a legal risk, and in the long run, it may be better to terminate the patient-physician relationship. Prior to discharge, make sure to review the laws and procedures surrounding proper notice and emergency care after discharge.  For example, in Virginia, practitioners should give patients at least 30 days notice and continuing care after notification of discharge.

Contact Goodman Allen Donnelly Today To Go Over a Difficult Patient Situation

At Goodman Allen Donnelly, we are business, regulatory, and litigation attorneys with the skills, dedication, knowledge, and experience to protect and defend healthcare professionals against lawsuits and investigations. We approach each situation by identifying the regulatory and business issues of the client and coordinating the most efficient delivery of legal services available to meet their needs.

If you have questions regarding a problematic patient situation or want further insight into how to handle these patients, contact Goodman Allen Donnelly today to schedule a consultation with a member of our team.