Nurses, along with others in the health profession, often deal with people who are not at their best. They are sick, in pain, tired, or scared. They might be dealing with insurance companies or have no insurance at all. They may be wondering how they are going to make it through all this.
Unfortunately, this fear and worry often shows up to others as angriness and meanness. They may take the negative emotions they’re feeling out on hospital staff. Often, this means that nurses get the brunt of the issues.
Luckily, overcoming this challenge is entirely possible. The following are a few simple changes you can make in your dealings with unpleasant patients. They will make your interactions with said patients much more tolerable, if not enjoyable.
1. Give Them Some Control
Patients who have never been hospitalized before, or who have never experienced any health issues comparable to what they are going through now, are likely feeling a loss of control. Outside of the hospital, they are parents, husbands or wives, teachers, lawyers – and in these areas of their lives they have some control. When a person gets sick, it is scary. They may not know what is wrong or how to go about dealing with it. Finding themselves at the mercy of nurses and doctors who are also attending to other patients can be frustrating.
Help these patients feel in control by making sure they have all the pertinent information about their current malady. Giving them knowledge can help them make decisions about how to proceed with your guidance. Allowing patients to be involved in their own care empowers them, and they’ll be less likely to pick on nurses and doctors. If the patient doesn’t feel helpless, they’ll be helpful.
2. Treat Them With Dignity
As a nurse, you most likely have a very full and busy schedule, with lots of patients to see to and paperwork to fill out. Your occupation has perhaps become routine, as it does for most people in most professions. You may be working as a nurse for so long that you’ve seen it and heard it all.
However, it is crucial that you remember that this is often the first time your patients may be experiencing whatever it is they are going through. None of this is routine for them. While you could probably take blood in your sleep, your patient may be deathly afraid of needles and really struggling to stay upright.
While there’s not much you can do about the tests and scans that your patients are subjected to, you can treat them with dignity. Let them know that they aren’t just another test dummy you’re working on. Ask them what they would like you to call them and then stick to that. If they are clearly anxious about an upcoming surgery, hold their hand and reassure them. If you have 30 seconds to spare, engage in brief chit-chat. Ask about their kids or hobbies. When they know that you see them as a person and not a case, they will see you as a person too.
3. Calm Their Fear
As mentioned above, many patients are frightened when they face an illness or treatment they know nothing about. This fear can translate into anger as patients try to make sense of what is going to happen to them.
You can ease their fears by speaking to them clearly and answering their questions. As they offer up their concerns, they are trusting you to be frank with them. Don’t patronize them by simply telling them that everything will be fine. If they are asking specific questions, you should answer them to the best of your ability.
Many of the procedures patients are afraid of are entirely routine to you. You’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands, of patients go through the same thing and come out alright. Let your patients know this. Using a calm voice and remaining composed, even if you yourself are a bit worried, will be helpful to keep fear out of the air. Remember, as the nurse, you control the attitude of the room; choose to be a positive and calming presence.
4. Respect the Family
Patients, especially those with more serious issues, will usually be accompanied or visited by family. As much as the patient might be afraid, family members are also experiencing a high level of stress and anxiety. As they see it, they are forced to simply sit back and watch as their loved one suffers. There is nothing they can do except wait.
While many family members can come off as rude and demanding, keep in mind that they are afraid for the patient and are desperate for them to be better. In their right minds, they are probably pleasant people. Regrettably, fear can make people change drastically and you’ll be dealing with the worst versions of people.
Treating the family with respect and a positive attitude will help both the family and the patient see that you are doing your best and that your only goal is to heal the patient. Learn the names of visiting family members, especially if your patient is in the hospital long-term. Get to know the family members as people, so they can see you as one, too. Forming this relationship is crucial to making sure your patient has one less thing to worry about.
Take the time to explain to family members what’s going on and use terms they will understand, without being condescending. Be patient and understanding of the stress of these families.