Disruptive Patients

Most patients are a pleasure to deal with, and truly appreciate your care. However, there are some who are disruptive to a practice. The causes for these behaviors may range from simple miscommunication to mental illness or otherwise. Nonetheless, patient behavior which is disruptive to the practice, including demeaning staff or creating an unsafe work environment should be addressed expeditiously.

Setting clear expectations for patient behavior can assist in diffusing the disruptive patient. Publishing a patient’s bill of rights and responsibilities in the office waiting area is often helpful. The rights and responsibilities set the tone for appropriate behavior and can be utilized to demonstrate to a disruptive patient how s/he has strayed from acceptable conduct.

Sometimes a patient may simply want to have their grievance heard. Has their appointment been unduly delayed? Is there an issue with the bill that can be addressed? Taking the time to listen to the patient’s concerns can deescalate the situation. We recommend asking the patient to step out of a crowded waiting room, and away from other audiences, to encourage more effective communication. It is also advisable to use a team approach in dealing with irate patients so that no staff member feels threatened in an atmosphere alone with a patient.

Some situations require a more official response, including police involvement. At all times, the safety of the staff and other patients is paramount. Disruptive patients who are threatening or violent should be dealt with by the authorities. Do not hesitate to contact security or law enforcement in such circumstances.

Would you like the information on this web page in a printable form? If so, click here to view the Disruptive Patients PDF document.