New Nurse Advice: How To Deal With Difficult Patients

Difficult Patients

Are you anxious about the unforeseen challenges as you are nearing the end of nursing school? Or are you worried that a difficult patient may ruin your first day in scrubs? Well, all your fears are reasonable and valid. The journey of a new nurse is full of surprises. Chances are you may get dog tired in the very initial days. And on top of that, you might encounter several difficult and stubborn patients that may make you rethink your career choice. 

However, dealing with such Difficult Patients is a crucial and inevitable part of your journey. New nurses need to address this issue appropriately to keep stress at bay. Responding inappropriately may turn minor clashes into full-blown conflicts, which may negatively influence your practice. As a new nurse, dealing with exasperating patients is unavoidable. But, such experiences will add to your skills and knowledge about and help you deliver better care to patients.

That said, read through to find a few tips you may find helpful in handling troublesome patients and saving your new journey from becoming a disaster with Difficult Patients.

Try connecting with the patient

The first step in dealing with complex patients is connecting with them. If you consider your patients as just another item on your to-do checklist, they might get offended. Don’t see them as your patients but as different individuals and get to know more about them. Ask about their likes, dislikes, and life. This practice will convey to them the idea that you care about them. Over time, if you feel you are not suitable for working in this kind of environment, consider changing your future career path.

If you consistently fail to bond with patients, step into management roles. For this purpose, you may consider acquiring a degree in Master of Science in Nursing Administration to advance your nursing career in a position with limited direct interaction with patients. This program will help you acquire advanced knowledge to serve as a nurse leader/manager in healthcare settings. 

Be empathetic 

A hospital is a place no one looks forward to visiting. As a nurse, you need to show patients you understand what they are going through. The crankiest patients might be going through the worst periods of their lives. Tell them it is okay to feel this way, that their reaction is normal. This will help lessen their pain and develop trust in you. Assure them you are with them in every challenge, and they can navigate their illnesses. Sometimes, even patients with minor concerns fuss about different things or hospital services when they feel like they are not cared for. Your job is to do whatever you can to show you care for them. 

Listen to their story first

Listening to your patients’ woes is crucial for helping them. By doing so, you provide an outlet for the overpowering emotions of your patients. This patient-nurse interaction acts as a coping mechanism for patients. Moreover, it also helps strengthen your bond with the patient. This bond, in turn, goes a long way in patients’ recovery from illnesses. Listening to them may also help you uncover the source of their concern. Listen to the patient as they tell their story, collect your thoughts, and respond after understanding the patient’s condition.

Stay calm and composed

When something unfavorable happens to a patient, they are likely to react in one of two ways. The most likely response is they will turn to for advice. In other cases, the patient may lash out at you. In either case, it is on you to analyze the situation and respond accordingly. For example, if the patient is agitated and abrasive, it is not your fault. It is your responsibility to understand the underlying reason for their behavior is anxiety and confusion that has led them to act out. Thus, you must remain calm and maintain your composure. Losing your temper in an unpleasant situation won’t benefit you or the patient. 

Body language speaks volumes 

One essential tip to handle agitated patients is realigning your body language with what you say. Your reassurances will go in vain if your body language is not acting along. Your body language communicates how you feel about a situation or a conversation. The best way to align your body language is to maintain eye contact while talking but don’t stare them down. They could perceive it as threatening. Also, try to sit down or hold their hand while talking. This gesture could come off as more reassuring. Your body language makes a significant difference in how your patients perceive what you are saying. 

Never accept abuse

As a primary care provider, you must be mindful of when an agitated patient’s behavior becomes abusive. You are not responsible for providing care to abusive patients. You must understand the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behaviors of patients in different healthcare settings. For example, there is a difference in the tolerance level of nurses working in an ICU and a pediatric ward. Nurses need to be wary of signs they are becoming victims of abuse without realizing it. A good rule of thumb is to alert your supervisor when your patient continues to be abusive despite being warned. Also, feel free to call security whenever you feel unsafe. 

Stay professional regardless of the circumstances

Most patients realize the patient-nurse relationship has certain boundaries that they must not surpass. Difficult patients are not only the ones who are agitated but also the ones who seem too thankful at first but become clingy afterward. These attention needy patients, who seem decent, may make inappropriate demands or ask to spend more time with you, thus becoming a complete nightmare. But, in any case, you need to act with caution and maintain professionalism throughout your relationship with such patients. This doesn’t mean you can’t nurture the empathetic aspect of the nurse-patient relationship. But it is essential to act within your boundaries. 


As a new nurse, you may find it hard to handle troublesome patients while providing care. However, that is when you will learn to deal with different patients in your nursing journey. Simply put, what may seem hard at first will become rewarding in the long run. This article mentions a few tips to make your new journey easier. Start by connecting with your patients, incorporating empathy in your interactions, and lending an ear to them. These will help you better understand your patient. Moreover, staying calm, professional, and mindful of abusive behaviors will help you handle such patients successfully


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