If you are a traveling healthcare professional, sooner or later you will encounter a difficult patient, one who is rude, demanding, or combative. And even though this is a patient who will more often fight you than listen to you, you are still obliged to provide him with the best care you can. So, how do handle a situation like this?

Lanette Anderson, a nursing professional, says you need to put yourself in the place of the patient, to think about the situation in which he finds himself. He is ill or injured or requires therapy, he may be uninformed, he is frightened. In short, he did not choose to be where he is, but you did.

Also, often with a difficult patient, his belligerence may have a cause unrelated to his particular illness or therapy. There may be mental illness, substance abuse, other personal problems that the patient does not have the wherewithal to handle effectively, and so his frustration manifests itself in his combativeness. The patient may have a poor opinion of healthcare in general, or may be having financial problems. Handling the difficult patient in this case involves attempting to find out what these other factors may be so that they can be addressed before the situation becomes worse.

Another thing to do is to show the patient that you are taking a real interest in him. Make eye contact when you talk to him, and listen to what he is trying to tell you. If you show impatience – crossing your arms, looking at your watch, cutting him short when he is talking – you will only make matters worse.

Continue to provide information to the patient, to make sure he understands as much as possible what is going on, as well as support and reassurance.

With a difficult patient there also are steps you need to take relating to risk management. One is documentation. You need to document thoroughly any adverse events that occur in the patient record, and remember to be as objective as possible. In the event of any legal action, having such documentation will be a tremendous asset to the hospital or medical facility at which you’re assigned.

Also, with a combative patient, you need to pay attention to any legal threats he might make, and take those threats seriously. You need to inform your supervisor, so that hospital or facility staff can take action to resolve any issues that are upsetting the patient before litigation enters the picture.

And if you are dealing with a patient who really makes you uncomfortable, as a last resort, check with your assignment supervisor; you may be able to have the patient reassigned to another healthcare provider.

If you’re an experienced nurse, OT, PT, speech therapist, pharmacist, or an allied healthcare professional with a yen to travel and care for patients either across your state or across the country, send your CV/resume to MedPro Healthcare Staffing. Contact us today so that we can chat about the many travel opportunities available.