How to deal with aggressive patients

If you are a general practitioner, you will come across patients of varying degrees of aggressiveness. While it is easy to deal with the verbally aggressive patients, it is very tough to deal with the physically aggressive ones. They may resort to pushing you, threaten you or even resort to violence or assault at times. Here are some effective ways to deal with aggressive patients.

Recognize the warning symptoms

Most often, the patient turns randomly aggressive, but he or she gives away some subtle symptoms that give you some clue about his or her aggressive behavior. The aggressive patient will show signs of irritability and talk in an angry tone. He or she may show a sudden fit of rage that may turn violent. These are all warning signs and it would be best to discretely move away from the vicinity. If they have visited you before, their past history would be recorded or the receptionist can mention their aggressiveness. This will prepare you sufficiently to prevent any damage to you or your consultation premises. Maintaining earlier records will also give you enough clues about the patient’s demeanor and you can be prepared well in advance, even before the aggressive patient enters your chamber.

Stay calm and speak politely

An aggressive patient can get even more so, if he or she is shouted at or shown the door. The moment you realize that your patient is showing signs of aggressiveness, tone down your voice and speak politely, soothing the patient with an assuring tone. Good communication skills come of great help as you can effectively send out a message that the situation is not that bad. Keep your voice polite throughout the conversation, speaking carefully and wisely. Some words may suddenly trigger the aggressiveness which may become too hard to handle. So choose your words before pacifying the aggressive patient. You can convey to the patient that you understand the situation and can even show some amount of empathy. It is important to maintain eye contact to communicate effectively with the patient. Make sure that your body language is in tandem with your empathy. This is important because 70% of effective communication is through non verbal communication

Keep staff at close hand

In case of aggressive patients, the situation sometimes goes beyond your reach. It is always wise to keep some staff in the same room in case the patient turns violent. Fits of rage can make the patient resort to destruction or cuff handling. In such situations, able and strong staff can diffuse the situation and take the patient bodily away from the vicinity. You can keep able bodyguards who are at close quarters and ever prepared to handle emergency situations such as a violent outburst from an aggressive patient. They say,’ It is better to be safe than to be sorry’. The staff too should be sufficiently equipped and well prepared, since many a times they may have to bear the brunt of an aggressive patient.

Position yourself carefully

It always helps if you have a table or some such thing that gives you some space in between you and the patient. Check for weapons and keep some shield at close hand, in case the aggressive patient tries to attack you. There have been instances, especially in deaths and critical conditions, where the relatives turn aggressive to a point of violence. If they outnumber you and your staff, it may become too hot to handle. In such situations, you need to instruct your staff in advance to call the police for help and assistance. Check whether there is enough room for you to escape from a violent patient before he causes any bodily harm in a fit of rage.

Offer a drink or a snack

Make the patient sit comfortably, in an understanding manner and offer him or her glass of water or some cool drink. This will distract the patient from the root cause of his/her anger and help in calming them down. Ask him about his or her cause of anger with leading questions to get the gist of the situation. If there is anything you can do to improve it, offer them a solution and try to convince them that everything would be alright. When the patient has calmed down, you can offer some snack to bring him or her out of the situation. Once things are in control, you can handle the patient in a much better manner. Dealing with aggressive patients needs some advance foresight and preparation since it requires dealing with unforeseen incidents due to unpredictable behavior.

Dr Prem Jagyasi

Dr Prem is an award winning strategic leader, renowned author, publisher and highly acclaimed global speaker. Aside from publishing a bevy of life improvement guides, Dr Prem runs a network of 50 niche websites that attracts millions of readers across the globe. Thus far, Dr Prem has traveled to more than 40 countries, addressed numerous international conferences and offered his expert training and consultancy services to more than 150 international organizations. He also owns and leads a web services and technology business, supervised and managed by his eminent team. Dr Prem further takes great delight in travel photography.

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