7 Surefire Strategies for Dealing with Difficult Patients

January 19, 2020


When you’re caring for someone’s physical and mental well-being, having a patient respond angrily or rudely can be extremely upsetting. Don’t beat yourself up though – we’re only human! 

We’ve spoken with multiple allied healthcare professionals to discover how they deal with less-than-ideal situations. Here are our top five tips to help you handle tough situations – and difficult patients – before they get the better of you.

1. Manage Your Own Stress and Anger

Before you can help a patient, a colleague, or even family members after work, you have to take care of yourself first. Absorbing negative emotions from difficult patients and battling a temper will only make you suffer more. 

It’s important to remember that you won’t come across many patients who are “impossible” to deal with.

If you feel that a patient is extra-stressful, however, you and your colleagues will probably need to attend to that them on a more individual basis. Remember that your personal safety should never be put at risk. If a patient becomes violent, always call in support from security staff.

2. Interview Tough Case 

 drewleavy / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 


This might sound like the last thing a patient wants, but when you’re dealing with a difficult patient, realize that there may be more behind their displays of emotion. Dig a little deeper to try to find out if they are scared or agitated, and then deal with the root of the aggression.

3. Listen Closely 

Allied health certification programs aim to teach compassion and understanding, but in the real world, it can be difficult to always maintain a calm demeanor. No matter who they are, everyone wants to be heard. In difficult cases, listen even more carefully and read between the lines.

4. Acknowledge and Repeat

Listening doesn’t mean anything without acknowledgement. If a hard patient opens up about their feelings, be sure to respond with something like, “That must be frustrating...” or, “I understand that you feel scared...” and the reason they gave you for feeling this way.

5. Don’t Presume 

Caregivers are often naturally compassionate and patient people, but that doesn’t mean everything that a patient says makes sense. Try not to react to comments designed to make you feel silly or incompetent. Avoid taking the bait when a manipulative person wants to draw you into an argument. A person’s agenda is not always clear: Remain calm and go on the facts.

6. Watch Your Body Language

During confrontations with difficult patients, the language you use will be inspected carefully. But don’t forget that body language speaks just as loudly. If your arms are crossed or you don’t make eye contact, this could be seen as hostile or as proof of dishonesty.

7. Train Yourself to Handle Anything

 ReSurge International / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 


Whether you become a surgical technologist or become an EKG tech, allied health professionals can always stand to develop their communication skills. 

Here are some great tips on building more experience:

  • Seek support from colleagues
  • Ask a mentor or senior staff for advice
  • Take training from a communications professional
  • Research body language to understand its impact
  • Learn how to control your breathing in stressful situations
  • Understand your right to be safe and treated with respect
  • Learn to set boundaries to protect yourself from abusive behavior.

Make a Difference – Kickstart Your Allied Health Career

No matter how stressful the situation, you’ve got the skills and capabilities to make a difference in patients’ lives (even when it doesn’t feel like it). To learn how to become an allied health professional – and get the training that will prepare you for an amazing future – contact an AIMS representative today!