As with any service related job, there are always positive and negative aspects of working with the general public. Some people, when feeling frustrated or mistreated, learn to deal with others in an aggressive or hostile manner; they do so as an abusive and manipulative means of getting what they want or think they deserve.

The all too painful reality of the work we do is this: it’s not a matter of “if” but “when,” we’ll have that jaw clinching, gut wrenching, hair splitting encounter with that not so nice individual who is ‘hell bent’ on ruining our day.

While we may not always be in a position to control that person’s bad behavior; we do however have both the capacity and the ability to choose, and therefore control, the manner in which we respond. There’s an old saying, “Be a thermostat and not a thermometer.” In other words, it doesn’t matter what the ‘temperature’ is of the person or situation you’re dealing with (Boiling Hot or Ice Cold)—you can remain a constant, refreshingly warm and sunny, 72 degrees.

To diffuse the tension, simply pause, take a deep cleansing breath and remain calm; reassure the patient by saying something along the lines of: “I care about how this makes you feel; please be patient with me, I’m doing my best to try and help you.” If, however, you feel the situation is escalating beyond your control or if you feel threatened in any way, please report the incident to your supervisor immediately.

Fortunately, RHN has established a very clear set of guidelines for dealing with difficult patients. For more information on these specific policies, please refer to RHN’s Shared Drive / Rights and Responsibilities of the Individuals / Termination of Patient Status.