At one point in your practice (or even during training), you will meet a patient like this. Or sometimes, its the relatives.
Have you got what it takes to face her?
Patients reach this point for a thousand and one reasons. They are worried. They could be scared. They could be in pain. They can complain endlessly. WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND WHERE THEY ARE COMING FROM. Uncertainty can make even the most reasonable person reach their wits’ end. They can become very, very sensitive about small things. With every word you say. Even with what you are not saying but your body language is shouting.
WE NEED TO HAVE A LISTENING STANCE. We need to allow them to vent their frustration and anger as long as they don’t get themselves and others hurt. Listening is not just about keeping quiet. If you are seated,its leaning forward a little to show interest in what is being said. Arms not crossed as if saying “I don’t want any of your stuff, ” but perhaps on the side. Establish eye contact. Nod a little at certain points.
WE NEED TO COMMUNICATE EMPATHY FOR WHAT THEY ARE GOING THROUGH. Apologizing is important. But apologize for the inconvenience. Apologize for the resulting anxiety (I apologize that this has caused you to worry). Use of words that acknowledges or describes how they feel connotes empathy like ” I can see that this has made you uncomfortable”.
OFFER SOMETHING YOU CAN DO AT THE MOMENT TO PROVIDE EASE. Say what you can do at the moment. Do not promise something you cannot deliver. Tell her how you will address things at this time and what you can do afterwards. Be honest without sounding you do not care.
LISTEN TO WHAT THEY ARE SAYING BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY TO WHAT THEY ARE NOT. When a patient is mean and crossed, could it be a disguised cry out for help?
image courtesy of ohmega1982/freedigitalphotos.net