Don't you hate when you get report at the start of your shift and the nurse before you sighs and says, "Room 427, I'll save this one for last because she's going to be your problem child". And you're like, "great I can't wait for this night to be over."
Some patients, God bless 'em will run you in the ground if you let them. Because they are under the illusion that they were admitted to the Hilton instead of the hospital. Then others are so pleasant you just hate to see them get discharged because they were such a breath of fresh air.
So how do you survive 8 or 12 hours with those patients who make you want to go hide?
Here are 3 tips for dealing with difficult patients:
1) Set limits. For those patients who are on the call light every 5 minutes because they want their pillow fluffed or want to know if it's time for their pain medication yet and they just got it 30 minutes ago, setting limits is a must. If they are alert and oriented and not confused, here's what I found has worked most of the time. "Mrs. XYZ I want to give you the best care possible so it would be helpful if you tell me everything you need while I'm in here now, this way you won't have to wait and I'll be able to care for my other patients as well. Does that sound ok to you? I will be checking on you every hour. I will take good care of you."
2) Establish a plan of care for the night right away. After you introduce yourself and do your assessment give your patients a run down and make sure you are both on the same page. For instance, I let the patients know what medications they have due throughout the night. I usually say something like, "I just want to give you a heads up that I will have to wake you at 2 am to hang your antibiotic or we're going to be coming in at 4am to draw your blood and get your vitals just so you know. They appreciate knowing ahead of time and I am better received when I have to wake them up.
3) Try to coordinate with your Tech or Nursing Assistant when you go in a patient's room. This is very helpful on night shift. A difficult patient will become even more difficult if 50 million people keep coming in their room waking them up. If they have a medication due around the same time as their vitals are due, grab them while you're in there. Also, try to anticipate what they may need while you are in there. A fresh cup of water, help to the bathroom, etc. The Tech will appreciate it and so will the patient.
I have found that for the most part the key to dealing with patients who can be challenging is communication. Patients want to be in the know. They don't like surprises. Be up front and don't be afraid to let them know that you are not a private duty nurse and that you have other patients to care for besides them. But and I say BUT you must be tactful and professional otherwise what you say will not be received well and you most likely will have a night from hell. (And we definitely don't want that )
How do you deal with difficult and/or needy patients? Please leave your comment below
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Tasha Nelson is a registered nurse who works the night shift at a large midwest hospital. She is also a total wellness enthusiast who firmly believes in the importance of taking care of yourself. A healthy mind, body, and spirit makes for a happy person. Isn't that what we all want?