During your CNA career you will doubtless encounter a difficult patient or two. In fact, studies show that more than 15% of encounters with a patient will be considered difficult by the medical professional. Medical staff often take on the mantra: “Conflict is neither good nor bad, it just is.” The reason for this motto is that when put in a working atmosphere with so many different circumstances and personalities, conflict is bound to happen. It is what you do about it that makes all the difference.
Why Conflicts Arise
You likely received training for these issues in your classes, but when it comes to difficult patients, conflict can come in all different forms such as difficult family members, outspoken or differing values, differing opinions with regards to care and expectations, down to simple miscommunications.
The Damages It Brings
While “sharing” often denotes a caring, beneficial relationship between parties, sharing in a conflict is a whole other story. While it’s true that some level of conflict may actually be healthy; either party allowing said conflict to climax will only cause discomfort and anger. Common expressions of conflict from patients include threats, intimidation, aggressive behavior, the “silent treatment”, family involvement, and refusal to co-operate. All of these behaviors add to a stressful, uncomfortable, and difficult work situation.
What To Do About Nurse-Patient Conflicts
It’s important to know how to handle yourself when a patient conflict arises. Do your utmost to understand why and what your patient is having issues with. The better you understand your patient’s needs, the more capable you will be of fixing the problem. Avoid playing the blame game.
While a disgruntled patient may know just how to push your buttons, you would never want to do anything to make them equally as uncomfortable, such as blaming them for the problem, insisting there is nothing wrong with them, telling them nothing can be done for their ailments, or raising your voice.
Instead of letting your emotions get the better of you, try taking active steps towards correcting the problem. Listen to your patient’s needs, be agreeable, and acknowledge their troubling situation. Knowing that their thoughts and frustrations are being respected is often all it takes to quell an angry conflict. Exercise your ability to apologize; this will let your patient know you care about their feelings.
Also when possible, be sure to let your patient know what is going on with their treatment; oftentimes patient conflict comes from the patient’s own stress over their condition and may have nothing personally to do with you.
The nurse patient relationship is sacred, and while frustrations may arise from both parties every now and again, it is important to always make your patient feel welcome and cared for. Always do your best to manage uncomfortable situations with class, charm, and tact, that you may soon resume your peaceful, caring relationship with your patient.