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  • 22 March 2023
  • 5 min read

How to Handle Difficult Patients

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    • Richard Gill
    • Mat Martin
    • Grace Saungweme
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“As much as you can, continue to try and build a good rapport with that patient. And that's just by acting in a professional manner.”

GP Nurse, Debbie, shares her personal reflections and techniques to get the best results when faced with a challenging patient, namely professionalism and keeping the focus of patient care.

The Challenge Of Dealing With People

As the saying goes, "Where there's people, there's problems." So here are a few tips on how I deal with difficult patients.

As much as you can, continue to try and build a good rapport with that patient. And that's just by acting in a professional manner.

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Don’t Take Things Personally

There's been times where I've had patients and I think I've spoken about it in the past, a patient calling me a failure. And I remember, like I said before, I don't take things too personally. They are probably having a bad day, which is fair enough.

I remember having her being booked onto my list for another time and I just had determined in my mind that, you know what? This is my patient; she needs my help. Let's laugh, let's banter.

As much as you can, continue to try and build a good rapport with that patient. And that's just by acting in a professional manner.

She told me some stories. We spoke, and ever since then, I've never gotten the hostile patient that I received the first time depsite continuing to see her.

I've generally trained myself not to take anything personally, when it comes to people's health, when it comes to my health even, our emotions are heightened. We're a lot more stressed than usual.

So for me to take something personally if a patient is coming and they're feeling really stressed, really anxious, they're feeling just bunged up and shouting or whatever the case may be, I try and remind myself that, you know what, this situation that they're going through right now is one of the contributing factors to why they feel like this.

Me taking it personally isn't going to help anybody because it's not like they want to come and shout at me or they're just frustrated at the situation and I know I'd be the same. So it's just important not to take anything personally.

It’s Important How You Listen

Number two, I think, is empathy, sympathy, just remembering that recently I went for a GP appointment and yeah, let's just say it just didn't go the way I expected it to go. The lack of sympathy, empathy and a lot of the times, and I'm guilty of this as well, a patient is talking to us and this is our response or this is how we're listening.

Why do we do that?

I do that sometimes and when I catch myself, I literally, I literally say to the patient, so sorry, I'm just making sure that I've not missed anything. Or as I'm typing, I reiterate what they said so that they know that I'm listening.

Although that is well and good, and a lot of the times I know I do that because I don't want to forget and I want to make sure I'm documenting everything that is said clearly, accurately, that's not what the patient needs at that specific time.

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The Importance Of Active Listening

We want patients to feel heard and by feeling heard, it's through active listening.

We're sitting there and we're actively engaging. We're nodding, we're asking questions, we're prompting and sadly, there's not enough time in an appointment to attend to every single need or every single thing that has been said. But in that short space of time, I've had so many patients, they've come in so distressed and they feel like just everything is crumbling. I've been there. I understand what that feels like.

To know that somebody is actually listening to you, it may not solve the issue at that time, but it definitely calms them down at that moment.

Using Referrals To Other Healthcare Professionals

Another thing is when a patient is being rude or you've tried so many conflict resolutions, you've done it all, what I would personally say is that there are other healthcare professionals that can see this patient.

A number of times a patient's name has come up on the list and you'll see in an alert box, do not book with X, Y, and Z doctor. Do not book with X, Y, and Z nurse, to protect your own sanity and to protect the patient. And just to make sure that their experience of coming to the GP Practice is smooth.

You don't have to see that patient. You can refer them to another one of your colleagues to continue the care. But just make sure that you're acting in a professional manner.

There's no point in the patient coming to see you each time, continuously displaying the same mannerisms and then just the same cycle repeating itself. So just be sure to just refer them and make sure that their care is being continued with another healthcare professional.

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Main Takeaways

So I hope this helps. And just remember, don't take anything too personally.

Remember, you have a life outside of your job or you should have a life outside of your job where you get your main satisfaction.

You have people who love you, people who care for you, and one bad patient shouldn't determine your day.

Active listening when someone is telling you about their troubles and the worries that they have concerning their health and just ensuring that if you feel overwhelmed and you feel like you cannot deal with that patient, referring them onto another colleague.

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About the author

I am a newly qualified GP Nurse in London. After my first degree in Biomedical science, I realised that I wanted a patient facing career, leading me to study nursing as a master’s degree. This is one of the best decisions I’ve made as I am loving my new career and progression prospects.

    • Richard Gill
    • Mat Martin
    • Grace Saungweme
  • 0
  • 1218

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