6 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Patients

6 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Patients

Dealing with a difficult patient is unavoidable. However, you have to understand that when your patients are coming to you it’s because they’re feeling pain, have lost a sense of their independence and may be experiencing stress and anxiety as a result. All of these compounded may make patients angry and upset, which will test your compassion, communication, skills and patience.

Here are our favorite tips on how to deal with a difficult patient.

1) Focus on Communication

This is a vulnerable time and if they feel like they can’t talk to you they won’t be motivated to complete their program. Our advice?

Ask lots of questions!

And not just about their pain. Ask about their hobbies, their family, their work, what they like to do on the weekends. Focusing on opening up that line of communication will help your patients feel comfortable working with you and finishing their program.

2) Make it a Collaboration

Nobody likes being told what to do. So make it a joint effort! If you have to jump in with some of the exercises, do it! Don’t be shy to ask them their input throughout their program. This will help you find what they like and try to include more of it.

3) Ask for Feedback

…then act on it. Don’t let their complaints or positive reviews fall on deaf ears. Listening is a huge part of a patient being able to successfully complete their program. If they tell you they like something, try to implement more of it. If they don’t like something, do your best to modify or eliminate to alleviate their complaint. Finally, if they have kind words for you, thank them! Let them know that you appreciate them.

4) Make homework fun

Handing them a piece of paper on what they need to do at home isn’t going to motivate them to do their homework. Instead, create fun incentives for them to work towards in between appointments. You can create a rewards program to further incentivize homework completion.

5) Remain Empathetic

Empathy fatigue is real. when you’re seeing so many patients you may struggle to stay empathetic with their individual situation. Practice active listening to help keep you engaged and empathetic with each patient.

Remember, you may be seeing this problem for the thousandth time, but for them this is their first.

6) Know when enough is enough

Not every patient is going to be the perfect patient, let alone an “ok” patient. You’ll need to know when it’s time to peacefully part ways when things just aren’t working. Don’t feel ashamed if you have to part ways either. If you feel like it’s just not working between you two, then it’s not. The purpose of physical therapy is to help them get better and if they’re not getting better with you they could be getting better with someone else.

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Candace Gasper

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