Just Listen! Tips for Getting Through to a Patient Who is Defiant

From time to time, you will have to deal with a patient who is upset or angry. It certainly isn’t the most enjoyable part of the job for anyone. The question is, how do you deal with a person who is in such an emotional state? What’s the best way to defuse the situation? Here are a few tips.

First, take time to listen.

Let the person know that you want to help and ask about the problem. Then, stop talking and just listen. Let the person explain why they’re angry. Don’t try to interrupt or give your opinion about the problem. Simply listen to what the person has to say and give your complete attention.

Body language is important. Look the person in the eye. Nod your head occasionally to show that you are following along. Ask questions if you don’t understand something. Try not to show any sign of impatience, such as looking in another direction or at your watch.

Many times, the cause of a patient’s animosity is the result of other issues, ones not related to a medical condition. The cause could be mental illness, substance abuse or personal complications that the person is having a difficult time handling, and so frustration spills over.

Consider your audience.

When trying to communicate with a patient, you also need to consider his or her background. With some patients, you can discuss things in more detail and at a higher level. But others may have less patience or understanding, and you will have to simplify your answers and speak in a clear and direct way.

The reading comprehension of the average person is around the seventh or eighth-grade level. This is something else to remember when talking to patients. It is best to use simple, straightforward language, avoiding any medical jargon.

When explaining something, stop once in a while to ask the patient if he or she understands the information. If not, try explaining from a different angle or approach. It is also important to explain why the patient needs to take a particular drug and exactly how it works to help.

Also, you don’t want to overload the patient with information which can lead to frustration. Stick to the most important facts, the information the patient truly needs to know.

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