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5 Tips for Handling an Angry Patient

It is always frustrating to say the least, when your patients take their frustration out on you.

And this is why learning how to deal with an angry patient is a valuable skill one can develop to support themselves in a clinical practice.

A patient who is normally calm can quickly reach his boiling point when ill or frustrated by his health conditions. Thus you should recognize the signs early and take an attempt to diffuse the situation.

Some common signs every patient shows when he is angry:

- Change in eye contact (looks down while talking)

- Raises his voice or starts shouting

- Gets over sensitive to everything that you say

- Replies in one word

- Pacing up and down

- Threatening to walk away

- Shaking and fist clenching

Below are some tips that can help you calm the patient:

1. Be more understanding:

Most of the times a patient is craving for attention and which is why his emotions come out in the form of anger. In such situations you should invest more time than normally going over the plan of care with the patient. Ask him questions like, “ What made you feel this way?” “ Is there anything else that has happened to you?“ Are you worried your results?”

Listen to the patient without any kind of interruption and allow him to vent at you completely if needed.

2. Show empathy:

For instance if the patient is being uncooperative, or refuses to take his medication on time or gets irritated at his PT while doing his exercise, then try to find the underlying reason of his anger.

Demonstrating empathy and making the patient feel cared about will help to build a good rapport between the two of you. Saying phrases like, “ I understand how upsetting this must be for you,” or given everything you’ve told me, it’s natural that you’re feeling angry” will making the patient feel much relived and potentially diffuse their anger.

3. Be cool:

Once you know why the patient is angry, you firstly should calm yourself down and not become defensive or speak over the patient. Do not raise the volume of your voice even if the patient yells.

Adopt a relax posture. And avoid crossing your arms, clenching your fist, and mainly don’t suggest a quick fix.. This will give the patient an impression that you’re simply in hurry and least bothered about his situation.

Instead, point out to the patient that they seem angry/upset. You can say something link,” You seem very upset by all this”

On hearing this patient might agree with you and this can help him calm his emotions.

4. Protect yourself:

If you notice that the patient is very aggressive and has issues in controlling his anger, then try to maintain a safe distance from the patient. Position yourself close to the door so you can quickly exit the room if you need to. And if the situation seems to go out of hands then don’t hesitate to take help from other staff member or security.

In situations like these you must make yourself the priority.

5. End the situation on a positive note:

Suggest options for what you could do to resolve the patient’s complaint. Yes, there will be times when some patients have complains that are simply unreasonable and unjustified. But also some can face genuine issues that need a long-term solution. You can take the complaint in a positive way as an opportunity to learn and improve and think of measures that can be taken to avoid the same problem in the future.

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