10 Ways Nurses Can Deal With Abusive Patients

10 Ways Nurses Can Deal With Abusive Patients : It is normal to see patients swearing and spatting with health care professionals. This attitude often hinders the patient’s attention, and mostly the nurses are blamed for subordination.

According to a survey from Medical Defense Union, the number of abusive patients has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since most patients are attended to by nurses most of the time, contemporary nurses must be educated on dealing with abusive patients as it is very emotionally and physically challenging.

With that said, the following are some things that the nurses can do to deal properly with abusive patients:

  1. Be positive and polite

    The one thing to always keep in mind for a nurse is to remain optimistic regardless of the situation.

    Often patients demand something outrageous, which aggravates nurses and can lead to abuse.

    If the patient is being abusive without any apparent reason, gently inform them that their behavior is inappropriate and will not be tolerated.

    They will probably acknowledge their mistake and might even apologize. It is crucial for nurses always to offer the patient an alternative instead of a straightforward refusal in these situations.

  2. Regard personal space

    It is universally true that invading someone’s personal space can lead to severe consequences, so it is essential to maintain at least an arm’s length distance from the patient except for medical purposes.

    There have been cases where people report personal space invasion by healthcare professionals.

    So nurses need to be extremely cautious about this as there are institutions set up for victims of this invasion where a nursing home abuse attorney intervenes to solve matters.

  3. Do not judge the patients

    While being in the business of healthcare, as it is the sole duty of a nurse to help patients, the last thing they should be doing is judging them.

    It has become a part of human nature to judge others for petty things like race, color, body, age, etc.

    The judgment can easily be detected by anyone and can lead to abusive behavior, so it needs to be avoided.

  4. Practice empathy

    In today’s fast-moving world, no one has enough time to understand the other person’s perspective and act accordingly, so many people crave to be understood by others in the way they want.

    Furthermore, when mentally and/or physically unstable, people want everything to be synchronized with their perspective.

    This is irritating for many people, but nurses should try to stay empathetic. The mere act of understanding the patient’s perspective helps alleviate the situation and promote a healthier relationship.

  5. Request a reason for their behavior

    This works very well with patients who have abusive habits and think they can do whatever they wish to the nurses.

    The mere act of questioning them would raise their consciousness and ask themselves the motive behind their actions.

    This threatens their sense of goodwill which can help in calming them down.

  6. Allow explicit verbal expression (if possible)

    Sometimes, people get annoyed when they can not express themselves and let out their anger.

    It is best to encourage them to express their anger in words and advise them during the conversation in these situations.

    This will help in calming the patient, but it would also develop a positive relationship.

  7. Stay composed

    Being in a situation where people are ranting at you for something you did not even do, it isn’t easy to maintain inner peace.

    This is a prevalent issue in the nursing sector. As health care professionals, it is necessary for them to have a stronghold on their nerves as it will allow them to maintain the quality of their work under pressure.

    If required, they can excuse themselves, take a small break, and go somewhere comfortable to calm down. It can also be viewed as a social duty for other nurses to help in calming down.

  8. Refer to a senior

    Experience in dealing with aggressive patients is invaluable, and junior nurses can leverage this as an opportunity for learning.

    If it seems that the situation is beyond their expertise, they should not hesitate to escalate this issue to the seniors and request their help.

    It will remedy the situation and provide the nurse with an example to learn from.

  9. Call Security

    If none of those mentioned above ways work, nurses should not feel ashamed calling security; it has manifested that the patient has gone out of control.

    The first logical thing would be to call the security as it can be dangerous for everyone at the hospital.

  10. Keep physical prowess as the last resource

    If nothing works in addressing the situation, the security is unavailable, and the abusive patient poses a threat to others or themselves, physical altercation can be used to handle the situation.

    But the following should be ensured:

    • The nurse is well trained to handle
    • Physical intervention would not pose a threat to the patient’s life
    • Not intervening would be more dangerous


Nurses could leverage many tactics to deal with abusive patients, like staying calm and positive, respecting their personal space, and getting help from seniors.

However, security should be called if, despite all the efforts, the patient is not under control. Moreover, nurses must understand that physical intervention can only be used in very specific situations where not intervening might be more dangerous.




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10 Ways Nurses Can Deal With Abusive Patients

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