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Ever encountered an angry individual at work? It’s an uncomfortable position to be in especially when you’re new at frustrated-nurse-deal-irate-patient-,physicianwork and don’t have much experience with this communication dilemma because no one taught us how to properly deal with irate patients or physicians when we were in nursing school. When an irate patient, relative or physician is there at the station screaming his lungs out, try the following suggestions:

  1. Remain calm, and try to invite him/her in a secluded room so both of you can talk privately.
  2. Let him/her vent out her feelings before you can say your part, do not interrupt because it would only aggravate the situation.
  3. Acknowledge his/her feelings and where they are coming from.
  4.  Extend your apologies. If you are wrong, admit it. Do not lie to get yourself out of trouble because one lie will need to be backed up with a never-ending extension of lies.
  5. Give suggestions of what you can do to solve the problem.
  6. If all else fails, call your immediate supervisor to sort things out.
  7. If you are the immediate supervisor, tell them that you are going to investigate on the matter to know what went wrong. So you can formulate recommendations and possible solutions to the problem and future precautions so that these errors would not happen again.
  8. After the confrontation, give them proper attention. Let them know that you have taken their complaint seriously and show them that beyond your shortcomings, you are still a competent nurse.
  9. After this incident, learn from it and then move on. This is how you gain experience. Take criticisms positively because you need it for self- improvement.

However, you can avoid getting into such troubles by recognizing important points that would make you efficient in your work. Below are ways on how you can avoid patients, relatives and physicians from getting angry at you.

In dealing with patient and their relatives, you must:

  1. Explain in layman’s terms – this includes every procedure, medication, diagnostic and discharge instructions. You wouldn’t want them taking the wrong drug frequency because you told them to take a drug TID which they would probably think as “twice a day.”
  2. Recognize the need to educate them when they are anxious – patients are usually tensed when in hospitals because of the symptoms they feel, different environment and the cost of hospital expenses. Understand that an informative and caring approach is what they need instead of a bossy and impolite approach.
  3. Don’t pass the buck do what you can for the patient when you are available even if you are not his charge nurse. Let’s say you are at the nurse’s station and then the patient handled by your co-nurse, who is with the physician making rounds on the other patient, calls and tells you that his IV is not dripping. If you have time, attend to the patient, just check the chart or the Kardex of the fluid regulation and check if the IV line is still patent. It won’t take too much of your time. Rather than having the access clogged, it’s better to save the IV line and avoid re-insertion which would cause added stress to the patient.

In dealing with physicians, you must:

  1. Know the specifics of your patient – when doctors do their daily rounds, the first thing they will ask you is “How’s my patient doing?” So during the whole shift you have to know your patient’s vital signs, complaints, new orders from other physicians, etc.
  2. Check your chart Have you transcribed telephone orders properly? Is your medication sheet updated? Is your nurse’s note accurate? Are your diagnostic results attached?
  3. Carry out physician orders completely – When a doctor has a two-page order, it is best to start at the beginning of the order, going through it per line and not skipping from page two, then page one, then page two again.  Oftentimes, nurses leave an order out because they don’t transcribe it chronologically into the Kardex.
  4. Repeat physician orders for verification this goes not just for telephone orders, but for physician-written orders as well. It is better to read all their orders before they leave the station instead of calling them for confirmation when they had already left. You might give Ceftriaxone to a patient ordered with Cefuroxime because you were not able to understand the physician’s orders and just chosen to give which one you thought was correct.

Just follow these tips and you’re sure to avoid having irate patients, relatives and physicians at your station. Who knows? You might even be commended for a job well done. Just focus on your work, follow what is being taught during orientation, do your best and enjoy your work. Share your thought on how you’ve effectively pacified an irate patient, physician or relative in the past.

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She is a registered nurse both in the Philippines and in the state of Texas with a masters degree from the Philippine Women's University. An active member of several organizations, she is one of the Philippine Nurses's Association (PNA) officers in her district and acts as a chief nurse in a private hospital. She also serves as a writer and researcher for a US-based nursing website dedicated in helping aspiring students pass the NCLEX which paved the way in publishing her co-written eBook entitled NCLEX Questions: Top Meds on NCLEX RN.