Managing difficult patients without risking your license

Whether due to a hostile attitude, refusal to follow medical advice, anger over a diagnosis or more, many doctors, nurses and other health care professionals have encountered difficult patients at some point. Dealing with these individuals can be complicated, especially when you fear that an unfounded or unreasonable complaint could jeopardize your medical license.

Managing difficult patients requires patience and a constant commitment to acting in the best interests of the patient. Because fighting to protect your license can take considerable time and resources from your Texas practice, attempt to gain control of the situation before it escalates. Here are a few tips to ease the tension:

Adjust your emotional response to the situation

When a patient becomes angry or openly hostile, it can be easy to react in a similar way. However, take a deep breath and aim to analyze the situation in an objective manner. The patient could be reacting to bad news, pain, the shock of a diagnosis or more. Instead of reacting rashly, empathize with their situation and adjust your emotional response appropriately.

Speak openly and honestly

If a patient is upset with their care, attempting to limit your communication can only further aggravate them. Have an open discussion with them to address their concerns. In tense situations, it can also help to discuss their preferred style of communication. If they realize you are attempting to customize your own communication style to fit their needs, they may feel more at ease.

Document your interactions

After meeting with particularly angry or hostile patients, write down the interaction to document your account of events. This should include any recommendations you made, outbursts by the patient, your attempts to diffuse the situation and more. Such documentation is critical should the patient pursue a complaint with the Texas Medical Board that could jeopardize your license.

Consider terminating the relationship

If the relationship becomes particularly toxic and your attempts to empathize with the patient, communicate clearly and address their concerns have made no progress, it may be time to consider other options. Be sure to retain your documentation of your encounters with the patient to support your decision to terminate the relationship.

Managing difficult patients can be frustrating and time-consuming, yet it can be an unavoidable part of the profession. Take care to react calmly and document your encounters to support your actions in the event of a future complaint.

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