How To Handle A Combative Patient

How To Handle A Combative Patient

Healthcare providers nationwide have long debated the most effective ways to handle an agitated patient. 

When threatened with serious pain, illness, loss of mobility, or loss of independence, even the most patient individuals can become irate, making care a much more difficult process. 

Or even worse, causing harm to themselves or others.

In dealing with these situations, it is essential to ensure the safety of the patient as well as the safety of those first responders in charge of care. 

Do you want to know how to identify the signs that a patient is losing control, and the best methods to manage them? 

These helpful tips will help you maintain control of unstable situations and prevent any undesirable outcomes, for the patient or provider. 

Identify Your Patient’s Emotional State

If possible, catching these signs early can help prevent any harm from being done to the patient or first responders.  

These will be identifiable by changes in body language such as tensing their jaw, clenching their fists, increased fidgeting, rapid breathing, or other significant deviations from previous behavior. 

For example, a mostly quiet person may begin talking much more frequently, raising their volume as stress increases. 

While this alone is not a direct indicator of a deteriorating emotional state, identifying these behaviors provides first responders with additional information to handle the situation as effectively as possible. 

Care providers need to utilize all of the tools available to understand the needs of their patients, especially when the patient may struggle to communicate these needs directly. 

 

Reassure Them You Are Here To Help

If a patient is being uncooperative, do your best to understand the reasoning behind their actions. 

Reluctance to comply with your instructions may be due to an underlying factor, such as anxiety about an upcoming operation. 

Once patients reach the level of belligerence, most reasoning will be ineffective, therefore avoiding exacerbating the situation to this level is ideal.

As such, maintaining a calm and empathetic approach is key for defusing potentially hostile situations. 

Reassure the patient that your recommendations come with their best interests in mind, and explain the repercussions if they choose to continue to disobey your medical instructions. 

 

Remaining Professional Is Crucial

In the unfortunate event that a patient becomes hostile to the point of verbally abusing you, you must remain calm and professional.

Your response will determine the severity and duration of the issue.

Therefore, you must avoid escalating the situation. 

While they may sound like statements attempting to defuse the situation, asking the patient to, “calm down” or instructing them to stop yelling is highly inflammatory. 

Instead, listen intently and maintain direct eye contact with the patient in an attempt to discern the underlying cause behind their behavior. 

If needed, create a small amount of physical distance between you and the patient, waiting until they are finished with their barrage before continuing to the next step of their care. 

We recommend using active listening by paraphrasing the patient’s own words back to them.

This will allow you to understand the situation from their perspective, providing insight into the feelings they are experiencing.  

If the patient becomes physically hostile, effective use of restraints may be necessary to ensure the safety of the patient and care providers. 

 

A word from Endure Industries

The presence of difficult patients may be a never-ending challenge, but employing the proper tactics for managing and defusing high-tension situations can help providers avoid unnecessary conflict and litigation associated with disgruntled patients.