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Helpful Tips In Handling an Angry Patient

Every day, nurses, regardless of their profession, deal with a wide range of patient emotions. The communication skills of nurses stress the need of having a calm and comforting presence for all patients. However, there are occasions when nurses must act as both healers and mediators. The ability to properly communicate with an angry patient is one of the most significant abilities a nurse can have. The eight methods listed below can assist a nurse in defusing possible patient confrontations.

  • Take Nothing Personally

Many mental health practitioners believe that rage is a secondary emotion, which means that it is utilized to protect oneself from other feelings of vulnerability (i.e. humiliation, rejection, sadness, fear, etc.).

While it may appear that a patient is attacking you personally, the fact is that they are most often reacting emotionally to a circumstance that does not even include you. You were simply at the wrong place at the wrong moment.

When dealing with an upset patient, the golden rule is to not take whatever they say or do personally. You can avoid sensations of being attacked and the impulse to respond forcefully by reminding yourself that the patient’s emotions are misdirected.

  • Observe Signs

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” observed Benjamin Franklin, and this is especially true when dealing with an irate patient. Most individuals give off tiny clues that they are anxious or agitated, whether they recognize it or not (clenched fists, tensed jaw, fidgeting, terse tones, etc.). By keeping an eye out for these subtle indications, you may assist your patients in effectively expressing their worries and frustrations.

For example, if you see that your patient becomes easily upset, you might try using Sakichi Toyoda’s 5 Whys hypothesis. This incredibly successful strategy will assist your patient in determining the source of their feelings. You will be able to deliver an appropriate reaction that deescalates the discussion after your patient has understood why they are actually unhappy.

  • Stay Calm

It’s tempting to try to use logic and reason to calm down an irate patient during a verbal assault. In the heat of the moment, however, attempts to explain or clarify a situation are likely to be interpreted as an assault, worsening the interaction. While being cool in the face of danger is challenging, it is not impossible. Maintain as much expressionlessness as possible on your face.

Slowly count backwards from 10 in your brain. Remind yourself to take deep breaths. Relax any stiff muscles. Using these tactics will disconnect your body’s natural fight or flight response, making it simpler to behave sensibly and professionally.

While being cool in the face of danger is challenging, it is not impossible.

  • Empathize

It is natural to grow defensive or feel personally attacked while dealing with an upset patient. Responding with rage or dismissiveness, on the other hand, would simply exacerbate tensions in an already dangerous scenario. Empathy is one of the most effective ways to defuse an angry patient.

Unlike compassion, which is a comprehension of another person’s pain, empathy is the experience of another person’s feelings. Take the time to listen to your patient’s worries and complaints. Recognize their experience and how it has impacted them. Ask your patient whether they want your assistance. Patients, first and foremost, want to feel that they are being heard and understood.

  • Take Care of Your Language

Communicating with an upset patient needs tremendous attention and sensitivity. Using harsh or accusing language, even unwittingly, is a definite way to aggravate a situation. For example, while speaking with an unhappy patient, try to avoid using the terms “you” and “you’re.” While meant well, these elements of speech might make patients feel attacked or told what to do (i.e. you must have misunderstood). Instead, use “I” and “we” to demonstrate that you are actively listening and eager to collaborate (for example, “I don’t believe I articulated it properly”). These minor changes can significantly alter the course of a conversation.

  • Establish Limits

When dealing with an irate patient, you may discover that they refuse to reciprocate your calm and sympathetic demeanor. Setting and adhering to a boundary is tremendously important in these cases. For example, if you are talking with a patient who is shouting at you or using bad language, inform them that you will end the interaction if they continue to speak to you in this manner. If they continue to behave improperly, excuse yourself and notify your management. If you feel uneasy conversing with the patient again, get your supervisor to join you. Setting and adhering to these kinds of limits can help you keep your professionalism at all times. 

  • Take Care of Yourself

A confrontation with an irate patient may be intimidating for any nurse. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself so you can return to your normal routine after dealing with a patient’s heightened emotions. It is easy to get burdened by an angry patient’s emotions, which is why it is critical to practice self-care in these situations so that you can show up as your best self for your other patients. Take a break and listen to a podcast, meditate, or phone a trusted friend or family member.

Your ability to operate with professionalism will contribute to a successful settlement, which you and your company can be proud of.

While each situation with an upset patient is different, these techniques are quite successful in establishing clarity and calm. Your patient may not appreciate your calm and level-headed demeanor right away. However, your ability to operate with professionalism can assist achieve a good settlement, which you and your company can be proud of.

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