Dealing with difficult patients can be a big source of stress in a nursing career. The good news is that you can learn how to recognize, diagnose and handle these types of patients to make your job a little easier. Here are just four common types of patients and how to deal with them:
These patients are the ones who don’t take your warnings seriously or continue to engage in high-risk behaviors that will only worsen their existing conditions. It’s easy to get frustrated with their carelessness about their own health, but try to remember that they aren’t doing it to bother you. They often have denial issues that have nothing to do with your nursing abilities or the treatment that you’re providing, so the biggest mistake that you can make is taking it personally.
No one likes an entitled patient, but it’s important to remember that demands are usually a smokescreen for deeper things like pain, fear and anger. When someone is struggling with stressful emotions, it’s natural for them to try to take control of their surroundings and assert themselves to anyone in it. Feeling annoyed by their demands won’t actually help them in any way, so try to be understanding and accommodating instead.
Complaining patients can take many forms. For example, some might be angry and judgmental while others mask their complaints in polite requests that still weary you with their regularity. The bottom line is that these patients aren’t happy with the care that they’re receiving, so instead of dismissing their problems, ask yourself how you can improve their experience. Maybe you can give them more clarity about their medications and dosages. Maybe you can arrange for them to be wheeled around the hospital so that they won’t be stuck in their room all day.
As someone who may have gone from a BSN to MSN nursing program and is now working in the upper levels of the nursing field, you’ll meet more “clingers” as your average patient rises from low-risk to high-risk. It’s not uncommon for people to develop attachments to their doctors, especially if they’re seriously or chronically ill, so it’ll be up to you to control the tone of your relationship. It’s okay to set boundaries. It doesn’t make you a bad nurse to stay distant and keep things professional.
These are just a few patient types that you’ll encounter during your healthcare career. You’ll have to wear many different hats when dealing with many different people, but learning how to manage these four is a good start.