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5 Basic Tips for Managing Difficult Patients

5 Basic Tips for Managing Difficult Patients

There are several reasons for "challenging" patients. Here, we give pointers on dealing with a difficult patient while preserving your peace with yourself, staff, and other patients.

First, let us identify why patients become “challenging” and what makes an interaction challenging.

Patients can be hostile, demanding, uncooperative and unpleasant. They may have needs and unrealistic expectations or reluctance to take responsibility for their health.

The doctor can also be a factor, as in some cases, the doctor’s personality traits often clash with those of the patients. Sometimes it seems more accessible for a doctor or a particular patient on their behaviors. As such, the doctor’s perception influences the difficulty of the consultation. Another factor is the disease or the patient's conditions, which often can be challenging to deal with, especially if chronic pain, ill-defined diagnosis, or those with minor signs of improvement.

These tips might help you diffuse these situations when dealing with complex patients:

1. Show empathy

Sometimes complex patients are agitated when they feel like no one is listening to them. Show that you care and do what you can to attend to their needs as long as it does not affect other patients' levels of care.

2. Observe and pay attention

Nurses often can sometimes anticipate difficult situations before they happen just by observing. Learn to acknowledge regular processes that may trigger a patient’s pain or distress and diffuse a tense situation before it even happens.

3. Build a connection

Take the time to get to know and connect even with the problematic patient to show a great way that you care and not just do your regular task with your to-do list.

4. Keep calm

A problematic patient may annoy, irritate and make you angry. It will make matters worse if you take your frustration out on the patient. Staying calm even in stressful situations may make you ease tension and keep the condition from worsening.

5. Never Assume

Many patients are irritated with pain or dealing with medical conditions or side effects that affect their mood. You can lessen a patient's lousy mood by knowing the underlying reason or cause of the problem.


As a nurse, dealing with a difficult patient is never fun, but it is not why you have to stop enjoying your noble career. Nursing has a lot of rewarding opportunities to work with patients from all walks of life, and it is essential to deal with patients confidently and with care.


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