How to handle difficult patients on travel assignments

Written by Super User on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 Posted in On the Job

As a travel nurse, your job requires you to provide the best possible care to all patients, regardless of their behavior towards you. You may encounter patients who are angry, depressed, nervous, feel a sense of entitlement or even those with personality disorders or drug and alcohol addictions. It takes planning, compassion and inner poise to prepare yourself to deal with difficult patients.

Have a plan

Always expect the unexpected. If you have a plan for how to handle difficult patient situations, your battle is half won. Being prepared with what you'll say and how you'll handle unruly patients will help you control your emotional response and remain calm and rational.

Keep the following steps in mind to handle difficult patients with the utmost professionalism:

  1. Be understanding. Being a patient can be emotionally depleting. Remember that the person may be dealing with a devastating diagnoses or hospital time during which he or she is frequently being poked and prodded. Let this understanding guide your interaction with each and every patient.
  2. Practice good communication. Trying to understand why a patient is upset can go a long way to sooth his or her irate mood. Be a good listener and position yourself at eye level. Try to provide the patient with the support and information he or she  needs.
  3. Attempt to calm your patient's fears. Your patient may be nervous about a diagnoses or treatment. Ask your patient if he or she has any questions. It's possible your patient is experiencing excessive fear about the situation.
  4. Know your boundaries. Your patient may be manipulative. Know the limits of your role and your care responsibilities. Be prepared to refuse requests that could harm the patient, such as an increase in pain medication.
  5. Leap over language barriers. Arrange for a trained interpreter, or a patient's family member who can convey information back and forth. Remember to speak to the patient, and not the interpreter.
  6. Assess the environment. If possible, try to avoid interactions with your patient in hectic, noisy surroundings.
  7. Monitor and control your own emotions. Identify your triggers and take steps to control them. If you are upset over situations in your personal life, be sure to get the support you need so these problems don't overflow into your work life.
  8. Take good care of yourself! If you aren't in good physical shape, you won't be a good resource to your patients. Get enough sleep and regular exercise. Eat a well-balanced diet.
  9. Know your safety options. If your  patient may put you in danger, such as someone suffering from a mental illness, know who to call for back up or security.

As a travel nurse, it's important to be prepared. Always enter a patient interaction with a plan, and don't take his or her mood personally. Remember, you are doing your very best.

Health Providers Choice is your leading source for travel nursing positions. Contact a recruiter today to learn more!

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