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How is a physical therapist supposed to react to violent or unwilling patients?

I have come to know that physical therapists may often get slapped, told harsh things and have been told things that may be uncomfortable. How is a physical therapist expected to react when such cases occur and how often does this take place.
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Sam’s Answer

This incident is more likely to happen in hospital or skilled nursing facilities opposed to an outpatient setting. However, when this does occur you can always ask for assistance of a nurse that works with that patient daily. It’s important to communicate with the nursing staff and doctors that also care for this patient so you know what to expect.

Many of these patients are not hitting you or saying harsh things because they don’t like you. It’s often because they are in pain, may have psychological disorders or other medical conditions. It’s important to try to explain to the patient that you are there to help them and treat them as a person right from the start because building a rapport will be helpful for patients that are more defiant.

Also, if you feel unsafe at any point you have the right to refuse treatment, and so does the patient. You must document the incident so it is in their medical record, and it’s always helpful to again communicate your attempt with the nurse and doctor.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for the great information in regards to this, i understand feeling safe has to go both ways and it is always possible to ask for help. Thank you!! daniela
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Aleksi’s Answer

I work in a hospital-based outpatient clinic, which means the patients are usually coming to physical therapy to get relief from their aches and pains or possibly recovering from a surgery. While violent outbursts are extremely rare in this setting, they still can occur. My hospital has provided training to look for signs of increased aggression (pacing, tone of voice, language, clenching fists, etc.). Our health records will also flag individuals that have demonstrated violent behavior so that clinicians can take extra safety precautions if necessary. Some precautions one could take include looking at your environment (open space vs. closed space), making sure you have an exit if you feel threatened, having an extra person in the room, and knowing where a panic alarm is. It is always important to deescalate a situation before it becomes violent. One way to do this is to listen to the patient’s concerns and to talk in a calm and professional manner. This way you can offer solutions to try and help rather than engage in a potentially dangerous situation.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for your reply, now i can better understand how a situation like this could take place along with what to do if it were to do so. Thank you. daniela
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