Although every patient is unique, healthcare workers often find that there are different types of patients that seek care. Being able to understand these types of patients and finding ways to work with them is essential to building a healthcare worker/patient relationship.
There are 3 patients that you are sure to see in your career – the inconsistent patient, the anxious patient, and the quiet patient. Do you know how to manage and work with them? Keep reading below to find out!
The Inconsistent Patient
An inconsistent patient is someone who is often late to appointments or does not show up at all. This may due to difficulty managing their time or a lack of interest or motivation in checking in with their healthcare team.
Managing a patient who has difficulty with time management may still be very much invested during the meetings. While patients who don’t have motivation or interest in working with a healthcare professional might come off as distracted, and may not follow your recommendations and advice.
As you know, it is normal for patients to experience anxiety regarding their health. However, anxiety is like a spectrum and a patient can experience anxiety anywhere on that spectrum, from a health amount of anxiety to crippling, unhealthy experiences.
People manage and exhibit their anxiety in various ways. For one person, anxiety might manifest like talking quickly, shaking, and difficulty concerning. For another, anxiety might look like keeping real still, barely talking, and delayed processing.
When managing an anxious patient, it is important to do so with sensitivity and patience. You might find these tips helpful:
Have your patient rate the extent of their anxiety at the beginning and end of your meeting
It might be helpful to use a variety of tools to help your patient explain how bad their anxiety is. You could have them identify their anxiety one a numerical meter, a visual meter (ex: a meter with smiley faces), or use descriptive words.
People who are anxious tend to be very sensitive to their external environment (ex: temperature, noise, lights, etc.). It may be helpful to ask your patient how you can make the space more comfortable for them. This could look like speaking with them in your office instead of in a medical room, dimming the lights, or raising the temperature as necessary.
A trigger is a psychological stimulus that prompts someone to recall or relive a traumatic experience. Healthcare settings can be a trigger for people, which then causes anxiety. Managing an anxious patient requires understanding their triggers if they have them. Not everyone is comfortable talking about their triggers, so it may be helpful to ask patients to disclose any of their triggers on their intake forms. With this information, you can then identify ways in which you can minimize the chances that they will be triggered during your care.
The Quiet Patient
Meeting with a patient often requires being able to communicate and maintain a back and forth conversation. These meetings also require that patients are transparent and able to express their true needs. A quiet patient, however, is one that requires a lot of prompting and nudging to participate in conversations. There are many reasons why a patient might be quiet including:
Having a quiet personality
From a certain culture/upbringing where being quiet is seen as polite or appropriate
They may have communicating difficulties (cognitive and physical)
Feel as if they have nothing to say
Are embraced, unsure, or afraid to disclose certain information
Feel intimidated or nervous by the healthcare provider or system
It might take some time to figure out how to work with a quiet patient. Try these strategies and assess their results:
Use motivational interviewing or open ended questions to encourage the patient to elaborate more
Make sure to ask if they have any difficulty with communicating or other challenges
It may be helpful to have the patient keep a healthcare journal where they write about their health. During in-person meetings, the healthcare provider can look through the entries to have a better understanding of what the patient is going through
Kristie is an occupational therapist, mental health advocate, and amateur urban farmer. Her experience with taking care of others in the healthcare setting and taking care of the land are both important pieces that make up who she is. As a life-long learner and creative, she hopes to create content that is centered around wellness and healing.