How to Deal with Angry Patients / Families

When a patient or his / her family members experiencing a problem or voicing a complaint at hospital, nurses are the person first approached. Managing difficult patients and families can be stressful. Here are some tips on how you can handle these situations.

Recognize the signs of distress

Before a patient or family gets angry, they are starting to get distressed or irritated. If they Pacing around the area, looking at their watches constantly, crossed arms, or answering with short phrases, attempt to approach the person, lighten the mood, or follow up their concern immediately. It is best way avoid any confrontation by being sensitive to your surroundings and proactive to the patient’s needs.

Understand the cause

But if ever the patient or family does begin to blow up, try to understand the reason for their angry situation. Patients and families rarely get angry for any reason. Understand that the patient feels sick, is in pain, or is wasting precious time. Understand the root cause of the problem and understand that you have control over and can do something about.

Communicate with the patient or family in mind

Say them that "I feel it or I understand it ... to convince them that you can understand their case. Never argue with them. You are part of the medical team and facility. Also, don’t make defensive responses nor put blame on a person because all your side comments become a reflection of your team or hospital staff. Make sure to check your body language that you are relaying sincerity and openness. Apologize for any inconvenience that may be caused. 

Don't be angry

For patients, there is no other way to release tension than getting angry at the hospital staff. It is easy to get angry back, but don’t take the anger personally.

Find a solution

If it is something within your control, act on it immediately. The family of patients might be angry because they remain clueless about the status of the patient, so give them an update. But if it isn’t within your control, then try to do something to follow up or to give them a reasonable time line. 

Be calm

Never engage with an angry patient or family member. If you empathize with what they are going through, it will be easier to not take their actions personally and get on with your duties. 

Forward to your senior

But if all else fails, and if the complaint is outside your realm of control, do not hesitate to forward the patient or family to your senior. Remember that you are part of a team and that you don’t have to bear all the burden and wrath by yourself. 


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