Any experienced nurse has had to deal with a patient that was unruly, untruthful or just downright mean. For this question, be sure to provide a specific time where you had to handle a patient like this, how you handled the situation and what the final outcome was. The interviewer is looking for you to stay calm, cool and collected despite wanting to fight back.
"I had an elderly patient who was struggling to maintain their independence, but suffering from dementia while recovering from a broken hip. They were resistant at times when they needed to take medicine, so I learned how to talk to them and involve their family member in order to encourage them to do the things they needed for care."
"To date, most of my experience has been working in outpatient family practice clinics, and the most frustrating patients for me are the ones who have no clinical experience or scientific education but question every recommendation the clinicians make because of 'research' they have conducted on the internet. I understand that everyone's opinions are valid and all patients are allowed to ask questions, but the patients who think they know more than the doctors I work with because of a blog they have read on the internet are very frustrating to me. Last flu season, when the virus was at epidemic levels, I had a patient who not only refused the vaccine but was telling me the vaccine caused the flu. I know this is clinically and scientifically impossible, but rather than becoming combative with her, I calmly presented her with the facts and allowed her to make her own decision, which ultimately was to deny herself the vaccine, but I did what I could."
"While not experiencing this type of patient directly during my clinical experiences during nursing school, I did encounter a few angry customers during my time working as a waiter through college. One particular customer became upset that I had brought him a different soda than he ordered. Where most customers would have simply asked nicely, he loudly proclaimed to the entire establishment that I was a poor waiter that couldn't get an order right. Knowing that his anger obviously stemmed from much more than a wrong soda, I simply apologized and returned with the correct order for him. My boss said I handled the situation properly and made sure that I put his meal on the house's tab for the day."
"During my time as a family practice nurse, I had seen several patients that were abusing prescription pain pills. One patient, in particular, became very upset with me when the physician would not prescribe more pain medication to the patient after I checked her medical record and realized that a pain specialist had just done so the week prior with a full month's prescription. Fearing that the patient may become violent, I brought another male nurse into the room and I calmly explained to her why more medication couldn't be prescribed. The conversation led to a discussion on abuse of pain medications and the dangers of the abuse. The patient left our clinic that day with educational brochures in hand about pain medicine abuse."
"My least favorite patient was an elderly man on one of my last critical care clinical days. He wasn't rude to me, nor did he have any problems with me, but the way he treated other nurses and techs really frustrated me. He was openly rude to any male that tried to care for him except for his primary physician and was inappropriate in the way he addressed anyone whose skin color was not to his liking."
Oh my - he sounds like a disaster! How did you cope? The interviewer would want to hear more about what you did and how you reacted in this situation.
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"During my time as an ED nurse, I had seen several patients that were shouting with alcohol heavy drinking. It bothers me so much. Sometimes we don't know the patient nothing have medical problems or not. I have one patient, in particular, became very upset with me when the physician would not prescribe any pain medication. He said he had so much pain in his back at that time, but he's walking well we couldn't find any problems. He's a famous man with our ED. He's come by seeing ED nurses almost weekly with minor problems and alcoholic always."
Great start! You described the situation with your least favorite patient well. I reworded for clarity. Now, show how you handled the case and the final outcome. Were you calm and reassuring? Did you show compassion? Did you help diffuse the situation?
"During my time as an Emergency Department or ED nurse, I had several patients who were in alcohol withdrawal and were shouting and demanding pain medication. In these unnerving situations, I had to do my best to assist the physician in finding out if the patient really had medical problems. I remember one patient who said he had a lot of pain in his back, but he was walking well, and we couldn’t find any evidence of back injuries or trauma so the physician would not prescribe pain medication. The patient became very upset with me. I found out that this man was well known in the ED because he would be in the emergency room nearly weekly with minor problems and always demanded pain medication."
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