4 Ways on How to Deal with Verbally Abusive Patients


We’ve all had to deal with hateful, verbally abusive patients at work. Of course, these people are sick and aren’t feeling their absolute best. I, myself, tend to be a little rude when I don’t feel well. Sometimes, patients’ offensive behaviors are excusable. You just smile and go on about your day. But sometimes, people cross the line of being rude and are verbally abusive. Here are a few tips to help you manage verbally abusive patients.

1. Be Polite but Firm.

When a patient has recurrent abusive behaviors or makes inappropriate comments, address the issue as soon as it occurs. Let them know that the behavior is unacceptable and is not tolerated by the staff. Respond with one of the following: “I don’t like the way you are treating me, and I won’t continue to tolerate your behavior,” or “That is inappropriate, and you won’t speak to me that way.” Many times the person will apologize or at least stop the undesirable behaviors if you address the issue.

2. Walk Away.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have done this. At times, I have gotten so angry and frustrated with how I am treated that I will excuse myself from the room. I’ll go to the break room for a moment to calm down. I’m not Mrs. Perfect Nurse all the time. I do sometimes feel like giving people a piece of my mind. But that’s not acceptable. So, excuse yourself and take a few deep breaths before readdressing the issue. I promise whatever scenario you’re contemplating is not worth it. Walk away.

3. Question the Reason Behind the Behavior. 

In most cases, there is a reason for the patient’s actions. After responding to the patient, ask if he or she wants to talk about something that is bothering them. Maybe they’ve received some bad news from the doctor or are just stressed about being in the hospital. These reasons don’t excuse the patient’s behavior, but maybe it would explain why you’ve become the nurse punching bag. It may help the patient to talk through their concerns.


4. Call Security. 

Do not hesitate to call security if you are feeling threatened by a patient. Call security immediately if the patient becomes more aggressive. Security is there to keep the staff and patients safe. Let them address the issue before the patient goes from verbally abusive to physically abusive. Watch out for yourself first!

I hope these tips help you handle your next hairy situation! Take care of yourself, Super Nurse!

I am a full-time registered nurse, wife and new mom. I've recently started writing part-time and I love it! My family is my life. I enjoy spending time with them in my free time.