7 Tips For Dealing With Difficult Patients For Nurses

For as long as you can remember, you have had a burning desire to devote your life to caring for people in the nursing profession.

Finally, the long and arduous road of nursing school is almost over, and you can finally see the final destination. Your efforts are about to pay off, and you will soon be able to put on those scrubs you always wanted.

However, underneath all the enthusiasm, you might have a lot of anxieties and fears.

Before starting in the practical field, one of the most common thoughts is: “What if I have to deal with a challenging patient?” Although there is no universal solution to dealing with complex patients, you can rely on the tried-and-true tactics listed below to keep things under control:

7 Tips For Dealing With Difficult Patients For Nurses

  1. Keep Calm

Dealing with difficult patients could easily trigger your anger. But taking out your frustration on the patient will not solve the problem.

If anything, it will only make things worse. Keeping your cool will help in de-escalating the situation.

Unlike the common assumption, fake grins are not an excellent way to mask your rage. Doing so will add to your anxiety.

Instead, step outside the patient’s room and take a few long breaths to calm yourself.

  1. Put Yourself In Your Patients’ Shoes

When dealing with a challenging patient, try to figure out what is driving their behavior.

You must have been taught during your clinicals in nursing school that a patient will not be tough just for kicks.

Something might have probably gone wrong along the way, and that could be causing the issue.

Medical conditions can account for a wide range of patient behaviors.

For instance, patients with cognitive impairments caused by Alzheimer’s, dementia, ESRD, or some mental health issues may act belligerently, unreasonably, or non-compliantly.

Apart from that, patients may be irritated because of cultural and linguistic barriers that make it hard for them to communicate their concerns adequately. Showing empathy is key to gaining insight into your patients’ experiences.

Please inquire about your patients’ perspectives and relay their responses without passing judgment.

  1. Take A Stand For Yourself

There is a delicate balance you need to strike between providing a patient with complete freedom of expression and setting appropriate boundaries to protect yourself from abuse.

Unfortunately, despite your best efforts to satisfy their needs, some patients will always have unreasonable demands.

But that does not mean you should lose your temper when a patient yells at you.

Instead, you should answer with something like, “I’m sorry you feel that way, and I would prefer it if you do not call me that name or scream at me.”

Keeping an upbeat demeanor will help the patient see that they are overreacting and allow you to get to the bottom of what is bothering them.

When patients begin to push the boundaries, you should immediately call your supervisor or doctor.

They will establish strict boundaries for how patients may engage with you, allowing you to carry out your duties in peace without interruption.

  1. Do Not Take Anything Personally

A patient’s hostile behavior often has nothing to do with a nurse or medical team.

Instead, it is usually more about how they feel physically, mentally, or emotionally.

So when a patient shows displeasure over various things, remind yourself that you are not responsible for whatever they are going through. You only have the power to help them go through this time.

While listening and processing information, it is important to dissociate yourself from the complaints as much as possible. If you know you are working hard, you don’t need their validation.

  1. Pay Attention To Your Body Language

A nurse must stay on top of positive body language when caring for patients. It will help patients develop a sense of trust and confidence in you.

As a nurse, your body language may contradict what your lips are saying. A failure to control one’s body language results in miscommunication.

For example, if you have an unwelcoming expression on your face, even if you are trying to project an air of calm, your patient may take this as an unfriendly gesture and get upset.

So it would help if you were attentive to your facial expressions when communicating with your patients.

Moreover, the actions one takes with their hand while conversing can convey a wide range of meanings.

Try to notice what you do with your hands when communicating with patients. Are your hand gestures overly dramatic?

Do you frequently tinker with your medical tools, pen, or ID badge? One way to avoid distractions and ensure your body language matches what you say is to pay attention to your hands while you talk.

You won’t be able to improve your body language overnight. It will take some time and dedication. To get the hang of non-verbal cues, you may consider practicing them with your colleagues.

  1. Be A Good Listener

Patients can sometimes get stubborn and impolite merely because they assume that nurses are ignoring them or not being attentive to their needs.

While it is almost impossible to meet everyone’s expectations, asking “What can I do to make you feel better?” or “What is upsetting you?” might help defuse a heated situation.

Once patients start speaking, convey that you are listening by making eye contact with them, nodding your head, and smiling.

If a patient responds negatively, you might still gain valuable insight into their personality that will help you avoid future confrontations. Besides, you will be relieved knowing that at least you tried to improve the situation.

  1. Take A Break

Sometimes the best thing you can do is to get away from a stressful situation physically. The floor is no place to relax.

So pick yourself up, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and take a moment. It will assist you in emotionally detaching yourself from the situation, allowing you to see things more objectively.


As a profession, nursing has its fair share of challenges. Managing difficult patients makes this challenge even more demanding.

What you need to do is remember why you chose this profession and try to stay positive even in the face of hardships.

Dealing with patients can sometimes be difficult, but it can also be gratifying once you have created a good relationship with them.

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