It’s not your imagination. People really are ruder to each other these days.
The pandemic, economy, political unrest, war, and continued uncertainty have taken—and continue to take—a toll on people’s mental health. These all contribute to stress, anxiety, frustration, and anger.
And according to Harvard Business Review, frontline workers are taking the brunt of this unrest and aggression. Why?
In today’s post, I share vital insights on why everyone’s so angry, how health leaders can more effectively support their employees, including tips so they can better prepare for our new, albeit unfortunate, reality.
But first, we must understand what’s happening in healthcare and the world-at-large post-pandemic.
To be clear, workplace violence experienced by healthcare workers predates the pandemic. The rate of injuries from violent attacks against medical professionals grew by 63% from 2011 to 2018. However, these numbers escalated in 2020, along with the COVID-19 pandemic.
How did we get here? According to research from Christine Porath, author of Mastering Civility, it’s the result of several compounding factors:
Being rude or acting in an unsavory way toward others is contagious, and it can quickly spread through social groups and into professional organizations, particularly healthcare.
Though we appear to be through the worst of the pandemic, frustrations remain exceptionally high in healthcare for several reasons:
This has created a pressure cooker situation in urgent care facilities, hospital rooms, and medical offices.
According to the American Nurses Association, 1 in 4 nurses is assaulted on the job. And you don’t have to search long to find stories like this:
So, how can health leaders help frontline workers and other employees protect their mental and physical health while managing a steady stream of angry patients?
Many providers and hospital staff are dissuaded from pressing charges because it can lead to PR issues and affect hospital ratings. However, if you prioritize the health and well-being of your staff and the patients they treat—accolades are likely to follow.
1. Encourage people to report abuse and violence.
Equip employees with the resources and support they need to protect their mental health, so they can better manage and cope with angry patients. Provide clear reporting policies, streamline forms, and follow up on each report.
2. Offer stress management education
Frontline workers need healthy ways to manage and cope with stress. Provide access to free resources like seminars, classes, courses, and apps to help them learn healthy and effective coping strategies.
3. Build a supportive culture
Everyone, including healthcare workers, deserve professional mental health care and support. All too often, mental health takes a back seat in professional settings. Stop the stigma by encouraging employees to seek the help they need. This creates a safe environment where employees feel comfortable seeking the help they need.
4. Offer de-escalation training
De-escalation is not taught in medical or nursing school, but it should be. Give your hospital staff the tools they need to effectively de-escalate verbal and physical altercations and protect themselves with non-abusive physical protection and restraint if needed.
5. Resolve internal conflicts as well
Sadly, it isn’t just patients who have become angrier and ruder. So, you’ll need to manage internal conflicts between employees, providers and staff.
6. Recognize and reward civility
The best way to show how much thoughtfulness and kindness matter to your organization is to recognize and reward it. Public displays of appreciation have a positive ripple effect on employee retention, mental health, and overall well-being.
Understanding how to manage difficult situations and deliver an exceptional patient experience amid conflict is vital to maintaining the integrity of your brand.
It can be extremely difficult to not take things personally when dealing with an angry patient, but doing so will help you stay focused on the situation, rather than the emotions that surround it.
Here are ten ways you can effectively de-escalate situations and get both you and your patient back on track:
If you’re a provider, nurse, or hospital staff member looking for more detailed information about how these tips can help, read our blog, “How to Deal with Angry Patients.” In it, we unravel these ten tips and help you learn how to quickly and effectively navigate unexpected situations and defuse patient frustration.