Dealing with Aggressive Patients
The moment Nurse Lina passed the nursing exam and attached an RN to her name, she was ecstatic. Finally, she has achieved what she has long dreamt of. She has finally reached her goal. This was the happy ending she was hoping for… or not. Turns out, nursing isn’t exactly a fairytale kind of profession. When one becomes a nurse, he/she enters a new world. A world that would make her/him tougher, wiser and a whole lot stronger, what with all the challenges thrown in your way. There will be situations that would lead you questioning why you ever wanted to be a nurse. There will be toxic duty shifts and stressful life-and-death situations to deal with. There will be grumpy doctors and uncooperative colleagues. There will be demanding folks and most of all, there will be challenging patients.
Below are some tips that would help you deal with aggressive patients.
- Remain calm despite patient’s attempt to goad you into an argument and try to have you engage emotionally
- Listen to what is bothering your patient: They may have legitimate issues. If their problem is beyond your scope of care, get someone else who can help.
- Acknowledge the patient’s concern. Sometimes just letting a patient know they are being heard can defuse the situation.
- Keep some physical distance between you and the patient. Although not all aggressive patients will become physical, you want to allow yourself time to get away.
- Speak softly. Refrain from having a judgmental attitude. Raising your voice will only make the situation worse. Instead, speak in a soft voice, but with a firm tone to convey some control of the situation.
- Try to remain neutral, although it may be difficult with an irrational patient.
- You also should try to demonstrate control of the situation without becoming demanding or authoritative.
- Look at the patient, but avoid intense eye contact which can be seen as threatening and could set them off. By looking at the patient, you convey you are listening to what they are saying. But making intense eye contact and staring a patient down, can be taken as aggression and does not help.
- Consider medication and restraints when needed. In some situations, talking with a patient may not be enough to prevent the situation from escalating. There are times medication to help the patient relax, or restraints are needed to prevent injuries.
- You should seek to smooth the situation over rather than bully the patient into better behavior.
- Physical restraint should only be used as a last resort, once all other methods of preventing or calming the situation have failed. When using physical restraint the person’s head and neck should be supported and nothing should interfere with their breathing, circulation or ability to communicate – physical restraint should not be used for more than 10 minutes.
Managing patients is not always easy. In fact, it is one of the hardest and most stressful things nurses have to deal with. However, with the right interventions, nurses will be able to handle stressful situations more swiftly and may be able to come out of it triumphant, both nurse and patient.