Good Reminders for Working with Stubborn Patients
February 28 2020
From Patience to Conversation, What You Need to Do to Help Move a Stubborn or Defensive Patient Along
As a nurse or home health aide, you will work with all types of people. This means that you will occasionally deal with difficult or stubborn patients. These patients may show defensiveness, anger, fear, frustration or just general unpleasantness. And when you factor in a loss of independence or medications or a disease that can cause drowsiness, agitation or confusion it can add to the situation.
Fortunately, there are a variety of strategies to help you handle stubborn patients by improving a delicate situations to ensure that they receive the best care possible.
Them or You?
Sometimes our own moodiness can show through our body language and effect and otherwise pleasant patient. Or perhaps there is something about the patient that reminds you of someone you don’t care for in your personal life. If it’s you, you’ll need to set your personal feelings aside. If you need to, excuse yourself for a moment and take a breath.
Whether it’s you or the patient, one of the best ways to diffuse tension is say something such as, “I feel like we’re getting off on the wrong foot,” and go from there.
Watch Your Body Language
When we get frustrated with a patient, that can sometimes show up in our body language. Remember to not show defensiveness through your own body language, such as crossing your arms. Instead, take a breath and shake it off.
When working with a trying patient, the best thing to do is to remain calm. Remember that your patient isn’t attacking you personally by refusing to do something. Instead, they are probably acting out from a place of anxiety or fear. By remaining calm, you will be able to see the situation for what it truly is.
See it Through The Patient’s Perspective
It’s always important in a profession that requires empathy to take ourselves out of our own shoes to walk in someone else’s. This will help you to understand what the source of their stubborness is from. Is it sadness at a loss of independence? Is it frustration or anger over a diagnosis? Once you are able to understand these underlying emotions, you will be able to address the real concerns of the patient and provide them even better care.
Engage in Conversation
Another way to learn the true emotions bubbling under the surface is to engage in conversation. Often, a patient just wants to be heard. Let them tell their story. Remember to maintain eye contact and speak softly in return, even if the patient is yelling at you. Avoid negative language and instead use phrases such as, “May I suggest?” or “Your options are.”
Remember to never argue with a patient. There will always be one that tries to pull you into one, but don’t give into that. Know that it is okay to voice your opinion, but remember to do so politely. And if you have made a mistake, or took too long to do something, simply apologize and move on.
Remember, it is not easy to lose your independence or receive a hard diagnosis. Your patient may be in pain, so rather than being defensive, remember to treat your patient with respect. Tell them that you understand how upsetting the situation must be. Show empathy by demonstrating that you care about them and are genuinely interested in helping them.
Be Gentle and Use Patience
If a patient refuses to do something they need to do, remember to be gentle and polite when asking repeatedly. Also consider walking away for a few minutes, telling the patient that you would like to try again in a few minutes. If that doesn’t work, sit down with them and explain why it is they should do what you are asking of them, being respectful the whole time. Don’t forget to ask the patient if they have any questions or concerns. It could be that they just aren’t understanding why it may be important for them to do what you are asking of them. Often, situations like these will require plenty of patience on your end, so be prepared to give it.
It is important to set limits for patients who make endless or unreasonable demands. Sometimes, you will have to set boundaries to keep yourself safe, which can help in avoiding escalating anger.
When all is said and done, at the end of a sticky situation, remember to shake it off. Don’t carry any anger or frustration with you to your next patient or home at the end of your day. Take some cleansing breaths to release any stress or anger before moving on.
To further release stress, do something outside of work to ground you, whether that is running, yoga or another calming activity such as meditation. This self care will help ease any stress you are currently feeling and help keep you from being quick to anger in a difficult situation.
Just remember that dealing with stubborn or defensive patients is just part of the job. Be prepared for even your sweetest patient to have a bad day, just like anyone else. With some understanding, a calm presence and plenty of patience, both you and your patient will be able to work your way out of any difficult situation.