To care for the sick. To assist patients to independence. To be angels of the sick room. Those have always been some of the main reasons why nurses chose to enter the nursing profession.
To care. To serve. To be of help. As we pursue our journey as nurses, we have learned along the way that our patients and their safety are always the priority. To serve them as best as we could, to give them the high quality care that they all deserve. Our actions should always reflect our aim of giving them effective and efficient quality nursing care. And in return, without them even knowing, they give us a rewarding feeling by just uttering a simple ‘thank you,’ and better yet through seeing them recover back to their normal pre-illness selves.
It’s always a joy coming home feeling fulfilled that you helped another get better. It always brings about an accomplishing feeling whenever you see your previously weak patient starting to walk around the halls again, which then reminds you why you became a nurse in the first place.
However, it’s not all joy and happiness in this profession. Although rewarding, we, as nurses tend to run into stressful situations in the nursing profession from time to time. Take for example encountering patients who make it difficult for us to care for them. How do we deal with these patients? How exactly can we be patient with these patients?
Tips on dealing with difficult patients
- Don’t take it personally
There may be times when we think that our patients are mad or upset with us, however that is not always the case. Feeling ill and not so good, our patients tend to become grumpy and not in the best mood at times and us, being the ones who always get to encounter them throughout their stay in the hospital tend to think that they’re like that because of us.
Don’t let it get to you. Just continue doing your job without letting all the negativity get in your head. Stay focused on your work and not on things you are not even sure of.
According to Julianne Haydel, veteran nurse turned nurse consultant at Haydel Consulting Services, “just knowing that the nastiness is not about you is a good start.”
- Know the cause
As much as possible, try to figure out and allow the patient to tell you why they are acting as they are. Offer them a chance for their fears and frustrations to be heard. Also, don’t just hear what the patient says, listen. Listen to what he’s/she’s trying to tell you and make sure you let him/her know through maintaining eye contact.
After doing such, try to analyze and assess the reasons for their anger all while using a calm, reassuring approach to help them overcome their anxieties and address unanswered questions.
Also, try looking through the patient’s perspective. What led them to react that way? Are screaming and or getting angry at you just a reflection of their fears?
- Acknowledge their feelings without necessarily agreeing with what they are saying.
Yes, you should encourage patients to verbalize their feelings, but that doesn’t mean that you have to agree to what they’re saying. Just hear them out and figure out what’s wrong, but also set firm boundaries and insist that you be treated with respect, just as you are treating them with respect.
- Pay attention
Sometimes, you shouldn’t only rely on the things verbalized by your patients. You also have to keep a keen eye and be observant. According to Nick Angelis, a nurse anesthetist and author., “nurses may be able to prevent difficult situations before they happen just by being observant.”
The nurse should learn to identify pathological processes that may soon cause a patient pain or distress. Nurses should also be ready to recognize and look out for escalating social situations. That way, you may be able to diffuse a tense situation before it starts.
- Ground yourself
It’s important to be mentally collected when working in a stressful environment like ours. You might want to take some yoga classes, do running or some other exercise to help you ground yourself and have better self-care.
Kathleen Bonvicini, executive director of the Institute for Healthcare Communication in New Haven, Conn says that “whatever you do outside of your job for stress release can help keep you more centered and more together mentally.”
- Stay calm
Yes, they may be annoying or even irritating at times, but don’t take out your frustration on your patient. Instead, try taking some deep breaths and pausing outside a patient’s room to collect your emotions and calm down. Doing so will ease tension and keep the current situation from intensifying.
- Know your strengths and weaknesses
According to Angelis, simply being aware of your strengths and weaknesses in tough situations can help you prepare for difficult patient interactions.
Focus on those strengths that would likely promote positivity as well as improve both yours and your patient’s mood. Or if you feel like you’re easily affected by negative comments, try to grab a few moments to collect yourself or regroup before pushing through the day.
- Focus on patient care
It’s easy to get carried away by our emotions sometimes, especially if it’s a really toxic day and you feel like everything just gets to you. But, don’t. Don’t allow your emotions to control you and have a say on the quality of care that you provide. Your patients come to the hospital, hoping to receive the best care and that’s what you should give them. Just because they’re difficult patients, it doesn’t mean that you need to treat them any less.
Even if they make work as difficult and as stressful as hell, make it your main focus to deliver excellent, positive care to all of your patients