At one time or another, physicians may have to deal with a patient who is angry or belligerent. People are feeling more stress than ever, and the stress and anxiety may manifest itself as anger.
If you are a physician confronted with such a situation, what is the best way to respond? Here are a few ideas.
1. Look for a simple and quick solution.
Often there is an easy way out. It may simply involve getting the patient what he or she wants. For example, if there is a conflict with a particular staff member, say a nurse, you can simply get another nurse to look after the patient.
Sometimes there is no easy solution. In this case, you need to listen and acknowledge the patient’s anger. No matter how loud they become, you need to remain as calm as possible, and talk to them in a calm and reassuring tone.
One physician has found that giving the patient something to eat or drink sometimes has a calming effect because it takes his or her mind off of whatever they are mad about.
2. Help the patient find a solution.
These days, with all the changes in healthcare and insurance, patients are feeling more anxious about their insurance coverage, and whether they will be able to pay for treatments. Simply dismissing their concerns or giving them some vague reassurance that you will handlethe problem later, is unlikely to relieve their anxiety and their annoyance.
Instead, you can propose some possible solutions, such as letting them know about alternative treatments and medications
3. Avoid clashes or disputes.
Your first instinct may be to confront the patient, but this almost never works. All it does is escalate the tension, and may even spur the patient to more aggressive behavior. The key is to attempt to diffuse the situation by remaining calm, and talking calmly and reassuringly to the patient. The physician needs to be aware of his voice and body language. You don’t want to raise your voice, but actually do the opposite – keep it in a conversational tone. You also want to avoid aggressive body language, like crossed arms or clenched fists or a belligerent stare.
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