Nursing Skills: 9 Tips For Handling Difficult Patients

Nursing Skills: 9 Tips For Handling Difficult Patients

As a nurse, you deal with numerous patients daily. While the job itself is hectic, it becomes more frustrating when you come across patients that are difficult to handle. But can you blame them? Not really. Suffering from diseases tends to make people aggressive, uncomfortable, anxious, etc. That is why the responsibility of dealing with such behaviors lies with healthcare providers like nurses. It can take a toll on you as a nurse. And you might consider just not dealing with them several times a day.

But guess what? One of the main qualities a nurse must possess is resilience. And that comes from dealing with all kinds of patients. The skill of dealing with different patients at different stages of life is not something nursing schools may teach, but something that you develop over time. Perhaps that is why this is a test for you. And a tough one. However, we have listed down a few tips and tricks below that will help you in your daily dealings with challenging patients.

Have a straight perspective

Understand that patients might be going through something which is naturally disturbing. It is not you who is causing the patient’s trouble; it is something else that is causing them to react or throw tantrums or be aggressive. Something is bothering them, causing them to be uneasy and uncomfortable. All you have got to do is look at them as mere patients. Focus on their problem, take note of their behavior and look for solutions. It is an arduous task to keep a linear perspective with them. However, it is what it is.

Upskill your nursing practice

You can turn to the internet to hone your nursing expertise. If you are a Registered Nurse, earning another higher-level online degree in nursing can help you learn new hard and soft skills. These skills will come in handy while providing patients with better care. Similarly, opt for higher qualifications depending on what level you’re at. As a result, difficult-to-handle patients are likely to be more receptive to the treatment and information you deliver. Of course, taking the online route allows you to manage a better work-study-life balance and not get frustrated while upskilling.

Maintain calm body language

The most important part of dealing with demanding patients is making them feel at home with themselves. They should feel safe around you, and only then will they open up about their problems. By being calm and composed, you convey that you are there to listen to them. It makes them feel that someone is there for them for the sole purpose of consoling them and solving their problem. Conveying this can be done by a simple act of sitting down as it shows that you have time for them.

Listen to them

Yes, as easy and cliched it seems, that’s the way. Difficult patients, by their way of behavior, reveal the cause of their uneasiness, aggression, and tantrums. You just have to listen to them without interrupting them. Let them speak. They eventually come down to the point where they can’t hold it anymore. When speaking to them, call them by their name more often as it makes a person feel good instantly. Also, speak softly and maintain subtle eye contact as it is an expression of honesty.

A gentle smile never hurts anyone

Smile when you are with them. They might not receive it welcomingly at first, but it will calm their tensions soon. A subtle smile encourages good vibes. It allows positive energy to flow and reduces stress in the atmosphere. In a room where a patient with so much negative energy is waiting for you, entering with a gentle smile is a good way to start. In addition, smiling your way through complex dealings releases your stress too.


Acknowledge that patients are not irritable out of choice. And even if they do it by choice, understand that it might be the only way for them to seek closure and feel light. They might have gone through something terrible that made them the person they are today. So empathize. Empathize as much as you can because you should. That is because empathy goes a long way. Feel for them. After all, they are in the hospital trying to get themselves treated and not you. You are in a better position than them. And after all, you can never regret empathizing with a patient, can you?

Utilize your abilities

In your career, you might have handled a difficult situation. How did you do so? What were your strengths? What made you pave your way out? Ask yourself these questions. Those strengths could be patience, humor, practicing gratitude, or just plain positivity. How about humor mixed with a bit of positivity, gratitude, patience, and creativity? Sounds like the perfect combination, right? Yes, but only if you can pull it off. Just do what allows you to have the situation under control.

Know where to draw the line

Knowing where to stop being too accommodating will support your mental health. Understand that you can and should only do what is a part of your job description. Yes, it is an act of pure kindness to go out of the way for patients, especially those who depend on you. But know that there are other patients too who need your time. So don’t overinvest in some patients and underinvest in others.

If nothing works, back off

If you did all that was possible professionally, and patients still do not respect the nurse-patient relationship, back off. But before backing off, ask yourself if you opted for every other possible solution to this situation. Are there any other possible measures you can take at this point? If yes, take them. If no, then backing off is the only option left. Ask your nurse manager to allocate another nurse in your place.


You cannot avoid hard-to-handle patients. Different people from different walks of life come with various problems. All you can do is learn to deal with them. By executing the strategies above, you can handle complex patients for the most part. There are good chances these strategies will make your patients calm and enable them to respect the doctor-patient relationship.