How To Handle a Difficult Patient

At any time in your career, you may walk into a situation where you or other healthcare workers perceive a patient’s behavior to be difficult or unmanageable. It is more likely you’ll consider a patient’s behavior to be difficult when you’re a new healthcare worker. Handling difficult behavior comes with the territory and offers you the opportunity to learn new skills you can generalize to nearly all aspects of your life.

As you read through some of the tips below, you may consider helping someone in a difficult situation, and it’s important to remember that the clients’ background, current situation, and your own perceptions all have an impact on behavior. Whether you have a client who’s being difficult at home or in a facility, first try to imagine the situation through their eyes. If you can empathize and think about their perception of what’s happening, it will help you through the rest of the steps.


First and foremost, stay calm

Anytime you’re trying to deal with someone frustrated, aggravated, or even outright angry, the best approach is for you to remain calm. When your emotions escalate, it only feeds into the other person’s anger, and things can quickly get out of hand. It’s important to remember your client is likely not attacking you personally but acting from anxiety or are resistant to what is happening to them. As you remain calm and in control, it allows the client to get themselves under control and often defuses the situation.


Empathy is the name of the game

As we said earlier, one of the quickest ways to diffuse the situation is to understand what’s happening is to be empathetic. Take a deep breath and remember it is not easy to be in your clients’ shoes, at home, unable to care for themselves independently or in the hospital in pain and away from their family. Treat your client with respect and stop any expressions of defensiveness before they leave your mouth. The situation is upsetting to them, and this is how they’re coping.


Pay attention to your body language

When you start to get frustrated or angry, it often changes the way that you breathe, stand, or sit. Keep your hands in your lap or at your side and try to take slow deep breaths. Although others do it unconsciously, many times, your client will react to your unspoken body language.


Avoid arguments

When clients get upset, they might try to push your buttons and pull you into an argument. Although you are entitled to an opinion, it is essential you express it respectfully. Instead of addressing what appears to be making your client upset, try apologizing for what is likely not the reason. As your client calms down, sit down, and have a supportive and quiet conversation.


Identify the issue and move forward appropriately

In the majority of cases, your client may be resistant to medical recommendations because they’re angry, frightened, or defensive. Others may present a list of complaints in addition to anxiety, depression, or personality disorders. Some are manipulative and use guilt or the threat of legal action to get what they’re looking for. And a fourth type present frequently to the healthcare team as they may be misinformed about their condition and continue to seek care, often because they’re lonely, worried, or embarrassed.


In each case, it’s important to attempt to identify the underlying issues and address your client from that perspective. And this way you’ll have the greatest success in helping the client overcome their challenges as well as being able to walk away without being angry yourself.


Ask Anodyne to Help!

Whether you have questions about your career development or working with a problematic client, our recruiters are your support person. They will help you find the resources you need to navigate challenges in your professional development successfully. Call our recruiters today!