Experiencing severe pain or being diagnosed with a serious medical ailment can make anyone emotional, agitated, irritated or even angry. Understandably so, as no one would enjoy being confined in a hospital far away from loved ones. Sometimes patients can get so emotional that they cross all boundaries and start to take their frustrations out on the entire healthcare team. In such instances, the best thing the healthcare team can do is to ease the situation.
Here are some ways healthcare providers can deal with angry patients:
1. Understand the reason for patient anger or dissatisfaction
Patients can get angry for various reasons! However, sometimes these reasons may be personal and completely not medically related – even though they’ll disguise it as such. It is important that medical professionals providing care to the patient, recognize and address the origin of the patient’s anger. Often, the patient can identify the immediate frustration that sets them off but, not the root cause of the anger.
In such cases, health care professionals can attempt to calm angry patients or prevent further development of the patient’s anger by improving communication, bedside manner and minimizing significant delays, while continuing to provide efficient care. Always watch your own language to prevent things from getting bad to worse. Remain calm, caring, empathetic, and tactful; and their tension will likely diffuse itself.
2. Dr. Google could be interfering:
Internet is full of misinformation. These days half of the patients who walk in the doctors’ office believe that they have already diagnosed themself by reading stuff on the internet. Few of them don’t mind giving a short tutorial even to the doctor.
When their internet-based self-diagnosis differs from the doctor’s opinion, some patients do not take it nicely. They hate being told that they are wrong, even after the doctor has given a proper explanation.
“But doctor what I read …”
“Do you think we should be doing this instead ….”
It is perfectly fine for the patients to do some self research, express their opinion and clear any doubts, but aggressively defending their hypothesis by trying to contradict or doubting doctor’s treatment can be incredibly frustrating. A patient who does not have adequate belief in his doctor should be advised to have a second opinion from another medical practitioner.
3. Getting too much treatment:
A doctor will often prescribe several tests and medical procedures to properly diagnose the patient. Many patients think it to be unnecessary or a way for the hospital/doctor to make extra money.
In the United States, thousands of medical professionals are sued by patients every year for negligence. Doctors need to be extra careful, usually all those extra tests are recommended to eliminate less obvious medical conditions. Some tests are not fully covered by their medical insurance and patient is on the hook to bear those expenses. Many patients get angry because they feel the whole healthcare industry is commercialized to extract money from them.
A patient who raises objection/declines the tests or procedures that you have recommended, and if your patient continues to remains unconvinced, then keep a proper written proof of his treatment preference, duly signed by the patient. Otherwise refer him to a different doctor.
4. Explanation of services
Patients who are in an emotional and agitated state are prone to act irrational and display anger. Sometimes patients will burst out in anger simply because they believe that a medical professional is providing lacklustre care. Patients might even compare the care provided by one medical professional to that of another to prove their point – even when the services rendered by the different medical professionals were completely unrelated.
To defuse this situation and calm the patient, it is best to explain the service being rendered step by step and in detail. It is recommended that the medical professionals should explain the care they are going to provide upfront to prevent any miscommunications and aroused anger.
5. Cost and insurance breakup
“What do you mean my insurance does not cover it?” – these are words caregivers are all too familiar with when dealing with patients. At this point, you might almost see their anger boiling to the surface as they stare in disbelief while a caregiver is trying to explain the situation logically and efficiently.
Many patients do not fully comprehend the makeup of their insurance. It is therefore important that caregivers explain in full detail the cost of the services being rendered, the breakup of their individual insurance and respectfully direct them to their insurance company for clarification.
6. Medication side-effect
Patients can get angry for numerous reasons, but sometimes this anger is attributed to a medical reason. Sometimes patients are on medication for other conditions and thus are finding it challenging to manage their emotions. Unfortunately, these medications can also cause a patient to become fidgety, easily irritated or aggressive.
In this case, the medical professional rendering services can only be sympathetic, communicate with the patient regarding the service and continue providing care when the patient is calmer.
7. Fear and worry
Being medically ill can be an intensely destabilizing experience for a patient, especially if one is hospitalized. In some cases, unclear results of a diagnosis, the occurrence of complications during treatment and a demand to stay hospitalized for a longer period can cause a patient to worry and become fearful about their future.
This fear can trigger anger and patients may attempt to direct this anger to caregivers. It is common for patients who are constantly worried and afraid to become broody, moody and even aggressive. Caregivers can attempt to help the patient recognize their source of anger and encourage them in alleviating their worries and fears.
8. The patient feels un-involved
At times patients might believe that medical professionals are not involving them or keeping them up to date on important decisions regarding their health. This might cause anger and confusion. Some patients might even express anger to catch the attention of medical staff as they feel that they have not received sufficient information about their illness or that their concerns have not been addressed.
Ensuring that patients feel they are involved in their care at all time can stop anger outburst even before they happen. Medical staffs should always strive to offer a thorough explanation to patients about their conditions and the care they will be receiving.
9. The patient is experiencing high levels of pain
Sometimes when a patient is in excruciating pain, they become more emotional and their ability to think logically decreases. This is completely natural as anger is an emotion often raised by the pain, especially chronic pain. Pain has caused many patients to lash out at caregivers for no apparent reason and sometimes even refuse to accept the care being provided.
Caregivers who are involved with these patients must first assess the pain and only prescribe analgesics if needed. However, caregivers must strive to alleviate the pain and offer comfort to the patient as soon as possible.
10. Stay calm
Anger should never be reciprocated with anger, even when patients appear to become upset for no reason. The truth is that there is always a reason that triggered their anger, whether it is immediately apparent or not. It might be that they are sad, worried or in distress.
Unfortunately, caregivers will be at the receiving end of the patient’s anger. As a caregiver, your role is to stay calm, show empathy and validate their feelings. You can do so by making the patient feel that you understand and care about them. Focus your attention on them, their feelings, expressions, and actions. Show them that you are interested and that they are important. This is powerful and can calm them down immediately.
Sometimes patients intentionally pretend to be angry just because if they show more tantrums, the hospital/medical practitioner will become extra careful and concerned towards their treatment. The fact is that doctors have to master the skill on how to deal with different personalities in the best way possible,
It is common for medical professionals to get involved with angry patients daily. Patients who are experiencing excruciating pain are prone to become emotional and act irrational, agitated or angry. The way medical professionals handle these situations will cause a patient to calm down or become angrier. Your patient needs to be treated like a partner. It is, therefore, best to follow the above-mentioned methods when dealing with angry patients.