Three Tips for Dealing with Difficult Patients


Most of you will encounter a “difficult” patient at some point in your career.

Difficult patients come in many forms, from those who are noncompliant or have complex health issues, to patients who are angry or manipulative. 

Whatever the case may be, these three tips can make caring for and working with these patients a little less difficult.   

  1. Check your own emotions. Angry or manipulative patients may bait you into responding aggressively, especially if they attack you personally. Taking stock of how you are feeling, and responding calmly can help de-escalate the situation. 
  2. Have an honest conversation. Create a welcoming space where your patients feel comfortable discussing all facets of their health concerns. Avoid using negative language that places blame or judgment on patients. Instead, use non-confrontational language, and listen completely to a patient so you can fully understand their health issues. When patients recognize that their doctor is trying to communicate effectively, they are more likely to adhere to the physician’s treatment recommendations.
  3. See things from the patient’s point of view. You may be encountering patients at the worst time in their lives; they might be in pain or struggling with a serious illness. Empathize with them by acknowledging and showing you understand their feelings. Providing a compassionate, empathetic response can go a long way in easing patient anxiety and improving your interactions overall.  

Want to learn more? Thanks to a generous sponsorship from TMA Insurance Trust, TMA members can access the FREE on-demand CME webinar Communication Skills for Dealing with Difficult Patients (.75 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™). 

This course outlines ways to address tough situations, while helping patients feel cared for and valued. 


Last Updated On

August 16, 2022

Originally Published On

August 17, 2018

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