Three steps to prepare your staff for angry patients

Oi Hua Lee

It really goes without saying—but in case it must be said—you have a really tough job. As if managing the operations and care of patients day in and day out wasn’t enough, you have to do it while dealing with angry people.

In many cases, patients and their loved ones walk into a hospital already feeling fearful, frustrated and powerless. To make matters worse, once met by busy hospital staff they may start to feel ignored and vulnerable. Understandably, having to deal with all these emotions at the same time can be overwhelming, and often results in anger. 
No one wants or likes to be on the receiving end of angry outbursts, but unfortunately, it happens and the best way to avoid conflict is to equip staff with the skills to approach such situations. Here are three steps to prepare your staff for angry patients:
First, it’s important to identify triggers that upset you. This can be anything from words, tones, or behaviors that remind you of someone who irks you. Being able to pinpoint what it is that’s annoying or upsetting you in that instance can provide a moment of clarity, and help you take a step back from the situation.
Once your staff knows what grinds their gears, it’s time to identify some potential situations they may encounter. Walking staff through some common occurrences can help to ensure that they’re never blind-sided by conflict. In fact, doing so can also give them a sense of familiarity and help them adapt in the likely event that they need to.
Last, and perhaps the most important step is to educate staff. It’s important to equip staff with the words they need to diffuse an angry person, to let them know that they’re being heard and that everything is being done to provide them with the best care. Equally vital, is helping your staff understand why patients and their loved ones are reacting the way they are—a little empathy can go a long way.
It may seem simple, but when things get heated and you’re feeling attacked, it’s easy to lose your cool. Helping staff identify their triggers, potential situations and educating them is just a few simple steps to take to stop them from making an already bad situation worse.

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