5 reasons why patients can be hellish sometimes

Susanna Kahr

Whether you’re a physician, an LPN, an RN or an Occupational Therapist, anyone working in healthcare will tell you that patients can really push you to the limit sometimes. For every wonderful, happy patient there are countless others who are unsatisfied with your care and love nothing better than to make things more difficult for you. Here are 5 reasons why patients can be hellish sometimes, and what you can do about it. 

They keep lashing out and getting angry with you

There are a number of reasons why patients might get angry and lash out. They might be feeling scared or defensive or they might be in denial about the seriousness of their situation. If a patient is being unreasonably aggressive with you and your team then the best thing to do is to take a step back and ask yourself what’s really going on. If you can see them getting wound up then you need to do everything you can to dial up your empathy and try to defuse the situation. 

“Training to restrain an aggressive patient takes place over the course of a couple hours and refreshers are once every two or so years.” – anonymous employer review at Sheppard Pratt Health System

They’re manipulative

If you’ve ever dealt with a patient who threw a temper tantrum, threatened you or cried to try and get their own way, then you know all about the many tricks that manipulative patients will try. Trying to talk to them is like trying to talk to a brick wall, there’s just no way to get through to them. The only thing you can do in this situation is to recognise their game playing for what it is, refuse to give them special treatment, warn your colleagues about them and resist the urge to engage in any kind of argument with them. Easier said than done, we know! Just make sure that your team backs you up so you can walk away if it gets too much. 

“Workplace Safety: There are very angry patientss who threatened staff.” – anonymous employer review at Major Hospital 

They’re faking or somatizing symptoms

We’ve all met patients who have googled every possible symptom and managed to convince themselves that they have a disease that they don’t have. Sometimes patients will have convinced themselves so badly that they will have somatic symptoms and will communicate the psychological stress that they’re under over and over again. Many patients like this engage in this kind of behavior to shop around for doctors that will take them seriously. You just need to keep your wits about you, and if what they’re telling you and showing you doesn’t add up, be mindful of getting all kinds of costly tests or invasive procedures done, despite their best efforts to convince you otherwise. 

“Working with psychiatric patients is always a challenge but is rewarding when you can truly make a difference in their day with kindness, patience and compassion.” – anonymous employer review at Evansville Psychiatric Associates 

They’re frequent flyers

In fact, you see them back in your ward or clinic every other day/week. You see them so often that you’re almost on first name terms and you know everything about their family and friends, and dog, of course. They might be hypochondriacs who come in at every sign of trouble, or they might also be lonely, confused or embarrassed. Whatever they’re reasons for returning again and again, you need to make sure to be as empathetic as possible and try not to let it show that you wish they wouldn’t keep coming back. Instead, focus on scheduling them in for regular appointments, talk to them about their symptoms and educate them about the right time to come in a see you, especially if you work in the ER. 

“Often the patients that I care for are fragile and in need of a nurse. The patients are often lonely and enjoy the visits by the nurse.” – anonymous employer review at Residential Homehealth 

They just won’t do what you ask them to do

You’ve told them a thousand times which medication they need to take when and why, but they refuse to comply with the treatment. This can be deeply frustrating, especially if they fight you over it, all you can do is let them know that you’re impeding you in doing your job of looking after them. Tell them “you’re making it very difficult for me to look after you properly.” It can be especially difficult though if you’re dealing with someone with addiction or mental health issues, so just make sure they know that they can keep coming back and you’ll continue to try to help them. 



Think we’re overexaggerating? We’ve got plenty of stories about difficult patients that have been shared by real healthcare employees on kununu – our employer rating site. So, before you take on that job you’ve been offered, make sure to check out what employees have to say. 


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