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Give us an example of a situation where you had to deal with a difficult and demanding patient and what you did.


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Kerrie’s Answer

I am not going to give a specific example of a patient because I believe this question can apply to patients, colleagues, co-workers, peers, practitioners, as nurses work with so many individuals in an interprofessional environment to care for the patient.

To deal with any person who is challenging and demanding, you need to take a step back and not take it personally. The best advice I would give to my younger self is don't take things personally. When patients or others are frustrated and demanding, it is because that person is under a lot of stress, pain, fear, unhappiness, anger, etc. You have to take a step back to look at the entire situation for its worth and take out the emotional components of it. When you do that, you can come up with a better overall solution without getting personally frustrated, angry, upset, emotional, etc.

I heard some sound advice about 15 years ago, and it has helped me out tremendously: There are always two sides to every story. Do not ever assume you know what is going on with another person until you ask their story. Asking someone about their story also helps keep the emotional pain out of the story and lets the two people involved in the story get to a solution. I wish I would have known this earlier in my nursing career, as it would have helped me in many situations dealing with patients, colleagues, co-workers, practitioners, etc.

My advice is also to listen intently and purposefully, mirror back to them that you are listening by repeating in your own words what you hear them saying, and then find a common solution together. Active listening will take you far in your career!

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Ryan’s Answer

Many patients are difficult and demanding, and for many reasons. Early in my career I responded to a medical "emergency" in which a young adult woman was complaining of severe abdominal pain. The pain had been ongoing for 2 weeks, yet she called us at 3am, and demanded to be taken to the hospital. Ironically, 12-hours earlier we responded to another abdominal pain call, but this patient had driven himself to an urgent care, and was in so much pain he couldn't walk.

What I did for the young woman was be just as kind and courteous as I am with any other patient. We took care to give her privacy, relieve her anxiety, and even coral her cat back into the house before taking her to the hospital by ambulance. As a medical provider it is not our job to judge, discriminate, or pass judgement. Did we complain and make jokes in private, back at the station? Absolutely. But never compromise your professionalism to stoop to a patient's level. You don't know why they are acting the way they are; perhaps they have dementia, perhaps they are terrified, perhaps you remind them of someone who broke their heart once, maybe this is the first time they've ever needed medical help, maybe they call for your help every 12 hours because they're just that lonely, etc. You don't know, so treat them all the same - the way you would want someone to treat your family member.

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Rachel’s Answer

Often my most difficult and demanding patients are just scared. They come into the cancer center not knowing what to expect and fearing the worst. Then, I sometimes have to give them bad news that makes them even more difficult and demanding.

When I see patients respond to stress this way, often I ask them "what exactly is bothering you right now and how can I make you less anxious about the situation?" It's important to not take their attitude personally and instead recognize that this is a person going through a crisis who needs help rather than criticism.

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Angela RM’s Answer

I’d say 99.9% of combative, difficult patients are under the influence of medications, drugs or illness. With that in mind, my approach focuses on figuring out the cause of the patient’s stress. I might not be able to solve it immediately but when patients realize I’m listening and here to help that can make a world of difference in cooperation and compliance.

#patientcare #healthcare, #medicine

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