Question: Assuming you have had a stressful and tiring day and you get a patient that becomes very distressed or angry how do you deal with this situation? and did you have to under go any training for this?
It’s important to remember that I am there for the patient. Without patients, I wouldn’t have a job, so I need to remember that although it’s been 9 hours for me, their problem is their life and their primary concern so I need to make them feel that it’s also mine.
Angry patients don’t tend to be angry for no reason. Often they are worried or frustrated so I find that listening to them and trying not to interrupt helps them get their feelings out and often gets to the root of their problem. If someone is abusive or threatening, then I do ask for colleagues to come in and assist me, or I leave, as that is unacceptable. No one goes to work to be threatened, but thankfully that happens very rarely. We have Conflict Resolution training which aims to solve those kind of situations and rectify problems before they escalate.
Just an average day in General Practice! – not really, but it does happen.
We are trained and practice the communication skills every day of our working life.
Patients tend to be angry or distressed because they’re anxious or scared about something. So the key is to find out what it is they’re anxious about. It may be as simple as they’ve run out of medication and are worried we won’t give them more. Or they’re worried they have a serious illness etc.
I try to recognise how they are and work it through. Its also important to recognise the non-verbal clues patients give. I can be very helpful to working out what’s going on.
It’s important to remain calm and to try and put yourself in the patient’s shoes and understand why they are distressed or angry. Usually it’s possible to diffuse the situation and find a way forward although I agree it’s harder if you’re tired or stressed yourself. I have try to take short breaks to stretch my legs and have a cup of tea if I’m feeling this way.
I had training in communication skills as part of my GP training and with experience it becomes easier. Some of the most useful training I had was the chance to role play with actors pretending to be patients.
As a Practice Manager I have to deal with many patients who are complaining and angry about many issues. I always try and remember that they do not want to be ill and are more anxious than normal due to worry or fear over their health or that of a loved one. Keeping calm and listening tends to be the best way as most just want to tell you their problems and get it off their chest. There is training for this it is called Conflict Resolution, which teaches you ways of identifying a problem before it gets too bad and then how to deal with it.