To pursue a career in the healthcare industry, one has to be equipped with a particular set of skills. Strong people skills and a compassionate nature are needed, regardless of your position within the health care system. But difficulties always arise, for both care practitioners and patients. In an environment where demands on health care providers are constantly rising, and some patients become more difficult to care for, compassion is not always as easy to sustain as we might assume. So how do you maintain a positive attitude regarding patient care once you are thrown into the demanding world of health care?
Walking in Your Patients’ Shoes
For starters, imagine being a patient facing long waits in waiting rooms, multiple tests, and an uncertain prognosis; the very word patient suggests a state of endurance. It’s an emotional roller coaster and no matter how kind the medical personnel is, there is no escaping the fact that the patient may be confronted with a serious illness. The 24/7 poking around by physicians, nurses, medical assistants and phlebotomists usually results in disruption of the sleep cycle. The additional pressure of touring the hospital facility for various tests, carried out by different allied health personnel, raises stress levels even further. Not to mention the probable physical pain or discomfort during many of these medical procedures.
As a practitioner, it is paramount to step back and acknowledge the immense amount of emotional stress that patients go through during their entire treatment. This is an especially important concept to recognize when caring for patients; it will truly test your nerves and ability to empathize.
Regardless of the patient’s emotional turmoil, a difficult behavior is not easy to deal with and can take its toll on practitioners. No matter how many classes on patient care and psychology you take, there will be days when patients, intentionally or not, will treat you badly and drain you of energy. Being angry won’t make you a bad health care worker — just a human being. Learning to manage your frustration will benefit both you and the patient.
Tips for Overcoming Everyday Difficulties
If you consider being a patient, you should remember that no matter what happens you shouldn’t take it personally. People's action reflect their situation. Your patients are most likely physically hurting and emotionally stressed. On top of that, they may be concerned about their loved ones or they may be facing financial difficulties as a result of their illness. Whatever they say or do is likely the product of unfortunate circumstances rather than a personal gripe against you.
Remember – hold your ground! At the end of the day, it is just a job you come home from, not the other way around. You have been trained in patient care and communication, so you know how to respond, professionally and ethically, to most situations. Regardless of how bad a situation gets, stick to your training. Make sure that a difficult patient realizes this is your job and that, even though you are uncomfortable with his behavior, you will still perform your duties and leave with a smile.
Trying to focus on the end result will also help when dealing with difficult patients. Remember all the good outcomes you’ve witnessed and never forget that this is why you do this — to help others. Empathy is key to the world of health care. Imagine what it would be like to be stuck in a state of negativity or anger? And most likely this grumpy, negative and sometimes rude person will go back to his calm, collected and positive self once his condition improves. He may even be grateful for your extraordinary patience.
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