Tips for Dealing with Difficult Patients as a Travel Nurse

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By The Gypsy Nurse Staff

February 13, 2021

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Top 5 Tips For Dealing With Difficult Patients While Travel Nursing

Dealing with difficult patients is a skill. Whether you are new to the nursing scene, or a seasoned vet, you know that there are just some patients that push you a little (or a lot) over the edge some days. Most of the time, we are pretty easy going and know to expect the unexpected, especially if you are an ER nurse. Here are tips for dealing with difficult patients while travel nursing that you can think about when you or your patient are having one of those days.

Use these tips to be a PRO at Dealing With Difficult Patients

Listen

Whether your difficult patient is in for something minor or something major, sometimes they just want to be heard. Just a moment to make eye contact and hear them out with all their complaints, doubts, anger, etc. This could be a way of expressing how nervous or scared they are about what may or may not be happening. One of our Gypsy’s put it best on Facebook, “Listen, and listen some more. If a patient has a complaint about a previous nurse, often better to just listen, then obtain the presence of the charge nurse or supervisor, or if the facility has a patient liaison or representative. A lot of times, they just need to be heard. Never make excuses.” 

Respond

It’s typical after a long day or even a long week to have a short fuse. Nurse or not, we are all guilty of this from time to time. Although for you, it may seem like a no-brainer, sometimes all they need is for someone to hear them out and respond with patience and kindness. Assure them that they will have all their questions answered and even ask if anything needs to be clarified. This may take a bit longer for some, but in the long haul will result in a better, more satisfying stay for both.

Ask

“Ask when you can’t find something, ask when you don’t understand them, ask for help if you need it, ask if you can help them, ask the patient questions, it’s okay to show emotion to your patient, it’s okay to sit and cry with them. Sitting down next to them for 30 seconds makes it feel like you spent 5-10
minutes with them sometimes. Share yourself with patients and their families.” This can mean the world to your patients and the lives they touch by a simple act of compassion. Showing the patient that you’re human, too, with a little bit of humility can go a long way in calming them down as well.

Kill them with kindness

Biting your tongue can be hard. It’s not always going to be a difficult patient that is just hurt or confused, or frustrated. Sometimes you just plain cannot calm them down or talk sense into them. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s perhaps something they’ve ingested that is making them act that way. For all involved, at times, it may be best for the sake of your own sanity to kill them with kindness. Even at your highest stress level, at least you can leave with no remorse in your actions and may even be able to get a laugh out of it down the road.

If all else fails, be honest

When you have tried and tried, and nothing seems to work, be sure you abide by the policy and let the patient know, calmly, the consequences of their actions if they proceed. Making sure you have documentation of what you’ve done or tried to do, as well as any documentation they may need to fill out to leave AMA, etc., it’s best to have all your ducks in a row. It may be that “gentle” nudge to show them that you care, but respect is expected both ways.  

Take-Away

How do travel nurses deal with difficult patients?

Listen, Respond, Ask Question, Kill them with kindness, and if all else fails…be honest.

We hope these tips for dealing with difficult patient helps you regroup your thoughts after a rough day, make you feel like you’re not alone on these crazy days, or even help if you’re new to the game. We love hearing your thoughts and what works best for you! Comment below with your best advice to share with the gypsy community!


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