How to Handle Difficult Patients

An angry patient pointing an accusatory finger.

Unfortunately, angry patients can sometimes leave us wondering why we became a nurse.Shutterstock

Most nurses worth their salt live for their patients. It is usually the patients that make the sore feet, paperwork, and hours without a bathroom break worth it. However, not all patients are rosy, happy people, and sometimes they can truly test a nurse’s compassion, patience, and communication skills.

Whether you encounter a patient who is angry, manipulative, demanding, or downright nasty, sometimes these patients can make you question why you became a nurse in the first place. All it takes, though, is that one patient who sincerely says thank you for you to remember why you are there. You can handle the difficult patients with a little forethought and tactics. It just takes another step of education to diffuse these tense situations and come out of the encounter with your compassion intact.

Dealing With Angry Patients

One of the most common types of patients nurses see are the angry patients, but this emotion can hide a great deal of emotions that have nothing to do with anger. Someone who is acting angry may simply be frightened, defensive, or resistant to what is going on around them. It is important for the nurse to take a step back from the patient who is angry and ask herself what is really going on. If the patient is actually frightened, then you will have to approach the patient differently than if they are truly angry over something, such as a long wait time. Even anger over a long wait time can mask a fear of not knowing what is wrong with them. The best course of action is to carefully interview the patient to draw out what they are feeling. Use reflective statements, such as “I can understand how you feel that way,” and try to discuss possible solutions with them.



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About International Nurses Association

The International Nurses Association was founded on the idea that professional achievement is deserving of recognition, exposure and reward. As a meeting place for the top minds in nursing, INA offers unlimited opportunities to further your success and embrace your role as a vital member of the medical community. INA is the fastest growing network of nurses from around the globe and takes pride in delivering its members the platform and competitive edge needed to survive in this ever-changing and complex environment. Visit
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