From time to time, nursing assistants encounter difficult patients, and one of the hardest to deal with is the demanding one. Demanding patients want you on your toes all the time and for themselves alone. They give orders that are either very difficult to do or impossible to perform given your time and effort. They want you to stay preoccupied even after your duty hours or make you do things beyond your role as a nursing assistant. Even the most seasoned CNAs find it very challenging to care for these patients.
Here are some tips to help make your work a lot easier when caring for patients with unrealistic demands:
1. Be consistent and firm.
Demanding patients can become relentless if they learn how to manipulate you to have their way.
Unrealistic demands that are unmet usually lead to negative emotions and behaviors in the patient. They can easily become angry, frustrated, and aggressive, which is another problem in the making. Be consistent in things that can and cannot be allowed. Giving in to their unworkable demands encourages them to repeat their manipulative behavior.
2. Try to meet them halfway.
Rather than being pressured to say 'yes' to the patient, you may try to compromise. If in any case that you cannot meet their demands, tell the patient what you can do for them instead. If they want four things at the same time, and you can only deliver two, tell them which two things you can do for them. This way, they do not feel that they have been ignored and completely turned down.
3. Offer choices.
Giving alternatives is another workaround in this situation. A patient may want a certain type of branded food product. You can offer them options from what's available. This way, their needs are still met.
4. Set boundaries.
Drawing the line is equally important when dealing with demanding patients. They can ask you to come during your day off or order you to run errands for them that are not part of your scope of practice as a nursing assistant. Politely but firmly decline and briefly explain that you will do your best to help them within the boundaries of your role as a CNA.
5. Don't take risks that can endanger your career.
Some patients can be so insistent, that CNAs become compelled to oblige even if it breaks rules and regulations. Never ever trade a temporary tension relief for your license. Always stay in the safe zone.
6. Add in more empathy.
Being on a sickbed or being dependent on others for some aspect of one's health is a big stressor. One way for difficult patients to relieve such stress is by trying to meet their needs in their own standards, sometimes at the expense of the staff. They may act aggressively and lash out at the people around them. Try to be more understanding and kind however difficult this may seem.
7. Control your emotions.
Patients who are overbearing with their needs and wants tend to be rude at the same time. And as such, staff who interact with them feel disrespected and likely to react unprofessionally. It helps to maintain your calm and still be compassionate.
8. Work on your communication skills.
An assertive and honest way of communicating with the demanding patient can help relay your message without appearing uncaring. Although at times it feels like your voice is too weak to be heard, remain dignified, and hold your ground by using a gentle but firm tone of voice when talking to the patient.
9. Ask for help.
If all else fails, consider asking for support from your nurse or nurse manager, who can speak with the patient on your behalf. An authority figure can help pacify the patient and reinforce boundaries.
Dealing with patients who have unrealistic demands can put a strain on a CNA's desire to help. This is one of the challenges of the job, which in time, can give you a rich experience and make your work a lot more rewarding.
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