Dealing with An Angry Patient

What to do:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Move pt\family from hallway to a private room
  • Sit at the same level of the pt, not too close and not too far
  • Body language: nodding, maintain eye contact
  • Use soft\calm voice
  1. Validate their emotions: I can see you’re angry”, “You look really upset
  2. Allow them to explain the situation by asking open-ended questions and vent their anger fully
  3. Respond sympathetically:I’m sorry this is happening to you”, “I’m sorry you feel this way
  4. Briefly restate the problem and summarize the situation
  5. Ask what you can do:How can I make this situation better?”
  6. Tell them your plan:Here’s what I suggest
  7. If they refuse, ask them what are you going to do instead and why?
  8. If you can’t solve the problem, refer them to the person who can
  9. Thank the pt:Thank you for sharing this with me, it’s really important that we completely understand each other
  10. Transition to the reason of visit: “Well now that you finally got to see me, what can I do for you today?”


What not to do:

  • Don’t interrupt outburst
  • Don’t take it personally
  • Don’t say:
    • I disagree
    • There’s nothing I can do
  • Don’t patronise the pt
  • Don’t get too close to or touch the pt
  • Don’t block the pt’s exit route
  • Don’t put the blame on others/seek to exonerate yourself
  • Don’t make unreasonable promises


Download the PDF version: here

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