Health practitioners deal with this same problem at one point in their practice, the Angry Patient. In crowded hospital halls or in your clinic, patients get irate – resulting in altercations with their doctors or with fellow patients.
Given the stress patients are under, you have to come up with new strategies to address these people. If you haven’t figured out how to deal with them on your own grounds (or are perhaps looking to see how others do it), there are techniques that could help practitioners at all levels.
First, you have to be able to prevent any outbursts from happening. Your environment can actually aggravate stress levels or control them. Try to make the office space less stressful by redecorating. Perk up your environment by adding the right amount of light and plants. Repaint your walls with softer colors. Is there too much clutter laying about? Lessen the stress by minimizing the clutter. If your office is prone to overheating during summer days or the winter, provide better air conditioning or heating. You can provide your patients with food and water. A vending machine will do well coffee machine will help too. Be aware of noise pollution too – if you’re near a busy street, play some soft music or white noise to drown out the bustling city. It’s a worthwhile investment.
Second, address the issue for both your patients and yourself. When you feel tension building, take some time to cool down. Talk it out with your patients. Anger is a manifestation of bottled up stress and practitioners themselves can only take so much before exploding. Identify the warning signs: perhaps a louder tone of voice, clashing eyebrows, a meaner stare, or constant fussing and the like. Your clients’ anger is founded on the idea that they aren’t getting the best help they can get. Give updates and assurance that you are doing your best in providing them the care they need. Show compassion, understanding, and rationality. Be honest but prudent. Sacrifice a bit of your professional air. While it is necessary that doctors have to remain emotionally detached from their patients, a little warmth won’t hurt anyone.
You must also know how to deal with anger as it arrives. Practitioners have the shorter stick and are usually bereft of any power to retaliate. The best thing you can do is learn to deflect. A code of conduct has to be maintained at all costs. Keep a cool head about. If you really are at fault, don’t be so stubborn as to forgo apologizing. There’s nothing wrong with that and your patients will appreciate the honesty. Make the practice as humane as possible. It all goes back to being compassionate and showing empathy. Withhold judgment and do not let your patients dictate your practice.
However, If it comes to verbal threats or even physical advances, the best option is to call security or the police. The line is drawn when the statements go well beyond your duties as a practitioner. While they are patients of yours, this does not give them an excuse to be rude. Be as absorbent as you can be – but not to the physical extent of it.
All in all, patient care is an ever evolving artform. There is no manual or set of rules on how to best approach situations such as these. What you can do is to look at it from the perspective of the patient. Then, you can work on catering your practice to those requirements. This is what makes the practice all the more challenging because every person is different. Always keep your head above water because your code of conduct and title demand these things of you. Learn to adapt to each patient accordingly – but never let them tug at you from all directions.
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