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How to Deal with Rude Patients

Updated: Oct 2, 2022

Whew! I do not know about y’all, but 2020 and 2021 have amplified rudeness, disrespect, and not being kind to people. Healthcare, unfortunately, has not been spared. Throughout my career, I have had interactions with people who just were not nice at work. I have been cursed at, had fingers pointed in my face, threatened, and called every name but the child of God by patients.

I do not know where people got the idea that this was ok, but it is NEVER ok!.

I completely understand people not feeling well, or at their best. I even understand being frustrated waiting for long periods of time. I do not understand taking it out on a healthcare provider, especially when something is beyond their control.

The instances I have witnessed this the most has been when there is a long wait, when a patient believes they should have a specific treatment or medicine when it is not indicated when a patient believes you are inferior to them, and when being rude has worked out in their favor before. As healthcare providers, we are often on the other end of that and we do not always know how to best handle it. Here are 5 ways to deal with a rude patient:

  1. Stay calm. Do not go to their level. This is hard, but rude and angry people feed off someone else’s response.

  2. Acknowledge their frustration in a phrase similar to “I understand it is frustrating to have xyz symptoms…..”

  3. Do not argue with them but clearly state that their words/actions/behavior is rude and you will not tolerate it continuing. Be clear in your reason why you are not ordering a specific test or prescribing a medication.

  4. Document everything. Their behavior, what they said in quotes, and your response. This has saved me many times.

  5. If a patient is going too far or you feel your safety is in jeopardy, remove yourself from the situation and call the appropriate help depending on your setting. This can be security or police depending on the situation.

We must protect our right to be treated with dignity. Poor and disrespectful behavior must not be tolerated.

Dr. Jackie the PA

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