Patient Yelled At Me And I Feel Stupid

Updated | Posted

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I'm just feeling really down on myself and like I'm a bad nurse. I dealt with a grumpy patient who was a nurse at a different facility. Therefore, since I'm a new grad I couldn't really hide much of my inexperience because she knew what was going on. She had to use the bathroom as she has urge incontinence, but her roommate was in the bathroom. Thinking that she was going to go right that minute and she would be very upset if she urinated on her clothing (she was about to be discharged), I grabbed the closest thing to me - the wash basin. She grabbed it, yelled "this isn't a bedpan!" And threw it across the room. Luckily another nurse brought me a fracture bedpan after that. Then the pt asked me how long I'd been a nurse and if I'd ever seen a bedpan before. To be honest, in the moment I just reacted and grabbed the first thing I could think of. The patient already intimidated me and I didn't want her get more upset by not being able to hold it and urinate on herself. It was very embarrassing and I now feel incredibly stupid and like I'm an incompetent nurse. I know I need to develop thick skin, but I guess I'm just looking for tips on how to not think about it over and over and how to stop these feelings of inadequacy. 

Emergent, RN

Specializes in ER. Has 28 years experience.

She is probably a bully in the workplace to. She sounds like an old bat.

FashionablyL8, CNA, LPN

Has 15 years experience.

I don't think you should feel stupid at all. You reacted quickly to save her from embarrassment. And you grabbed a wash basin, which is disposable- it's not like you grabbed her purse or something. I think she was perhaps feeling uncomfortable in her role as a patient and acted badly. You were being compassionate and did the best you could to help her. She's the one who had a temper tantrum..

It does help to grow a thick skin and it will come with time. Being new makes us feel self conscious and more critical of ourselves than usual, so it's easier for others to get to us. I'm a new grad LPN, have been working in health care for many years and don't consider myself to be very sensitive. However, in my new job I feel like I mortify myself at least a few times during each shift. I try to just remind myself that it's a job, I don't need to see these people outside of work so even if they do think I'm an idiot, it's not the end of the world 🤣. And I also try to remember that nobody notices my behavior as much as I do. I'll say or do something cringe-worthy and replay it all day, but others may not even notice.

We won't be new at this forever- it's gonna get better 🙂.

I'm sorry you are having trouble letting this go. Here are some things for you to think through -

1. Patients are separate from you. Generally speaking their thoughts and behaviors are about what is going on with them, not you. Even if a patient does have a complaint or concern, how they handle it is on them/about them. We cannot let our self-esteem be dictated by others.

2. For the most part, we do not control others' behaviors. We do have the potential/ability to control our own thoughts and behaviors. Since you have asked for help with feelings of inadequacy, begin with working to control your own thoughts/emotions. You are a newer nurse, obviously there is a lot for you to learn. This is not stupidity, it's inexperience, and you are gaining knowledge and experience every day.

3. Given #1 (others' behavior is about them), begin cultivating a neutral emotion which you employ at work. Tell yourself that you will hear what is being said without a negative internal reaction and that you will handle it whatever it is. When reacting, learn to take the path that is therapeutic for both you and the patient, instead of the path dictated by various temporary emotional reactions.

4. In your example, bring everything together: It isn't your fault that the patient had a shared bathroom, it isn't your fault someone else was in that bathroom, it isn't your fault that the patient had to urinate right then. It isn't your fault that the patient was grumpy (sounds rude and demanding actually). There is very little about this scenario that has anything to do with you personally. Logically it doesn't make sense for you to perseverate on this and feel incompetent. So...given #2, you need to work on controlling those types of thoughts/reactions. This is part of what people mean by "thicker skin" and yes it would be a great benefit to you to work on that.

You need a lot of positive self-talk. Give yourself some grace for your learning process and also for being a human, not a superhero character.

Everything is okay. Forget this except to meditate on the ideas above and other positive messages.

Take care ~

Edited by JKL33

Been there,done that, ASN, RN

Has 33 years experience.

You did fine.  You gave her the closest thing to urinate in. She is just a crusty old bat. 

12 hours ago, FashionablyL8 said:

I don't think you should feel stupid at all. You reacted quickly to save her from embarrassment. And you grabbed a wash basin, which is disposable- it's not like you grabbed her purse or something. I think she was perhaps feeling uncomfortable in her role as a patient and acted badly. You were being compassionate and did the best you could to help her. She's the one who had a temper tantrum..

It does help to grow a thick skin and it will come with time. Being new makes us feel self conscious and more critical of ourselves than usual, so it's easier for others to get to us. I'm a new grad LPN, have been working in health care for many years and don't consider myself to be very sensitive. However, in my new job I feel like I mortify myself at least a few times during each shift. I try to just remind myself that it's a job, I don't need to see these people outside of work so even if they do think I'm an idiot, it's not the end of the world 🤣. And I also try to remember that nobody notices my behavior as much as I do. I'll say or do something cringe-worthy and replay it all day, but others may not even notice.

We won't be new at this forever- it's gonna get better 🙂.

Thank you so much for the kind words.  I think telling myself that I won't see these people outside of my job will help a lot. I know I need to separate work life from home life to keep myself sane! I really appreciate you taking the time to comment 😊

9 hours ago, JKL33 said:

I'm sorry you are having trouble letting this go. Here are some things for you to think through -

1. Patients are separate from you. Generally speaking their thoughts and behaviors are about what is going on with them, not you. Even if a patient does have a complaint or concern, how they handle it is on them/about them. We cannot let our self-esteem be dictated by others.

2. For the most part, we do not control others' behaviors. We do have the potential/ability to control our own thoughts and behaviors. Since you have asked for help with feelings of inadequacy, begin with working to control your own thoughts/emotions. You are a newer nurse, obviously there is a lot for you to learn. This is not stupidity, it's inexperience, and you are gaining knowledge and experience every day.

3. Given #1 (others' behavior is about them), begin cultivating a neutral emotion which you employ at work. Tell yourself that you will hear what is being said without a negative internal reaction and that you will handle it whatever it is. When reacting, learn to take the path that is therapeutic for both you and the patient, instead of the path dictated by various temporary emotional reactions.

4. In your example, bring everything together: It isn't your fault that the patient had a shared bathroom, it isn't your fault someone else was in that bathroom, it isn't your fault that the patient had to urinate right then. It isn't your fault that the patient was grumpy (sounds rude and demanding actually). There is very little about this scenario that has anything to do with you personally. Logically it doesn't make sense for you to perseverate on this and feel incompetent. So...given #2, you need to work on controlling those types of thoughts/reactions. This is part of what people mean by "thicker skin" and yes it would be a great benefit to you to work on that.

You need a lot of positive self-talk. Give yourself some grace for your learning process and also for being a human, not a superhero character.

Everything is okay. Forget this except to meditate on the ideas above and other positive messages.

Take care ~

Thank you so much for the advice. I really appreciate your tips and will work on implementing them. I especially like your tip of creating neutral emotions around work - I tend to take things personally, so this advice is very helpful. Thanks so much 😊

Davey Do

Specializes in around 25 years psych, 15years medical. Has 42 years experience.

RowRN, this situation is merely a small bump in the entire road of your career that if you hadn't put it into words, you will have forgotten about it down the road. Believe me, I've done so many dumb little things in my career, and I don't even remember them.

Labelling a patient is an end roads parochial perspective that often results in an Us & Them headset. We are all beings with emotions which stem from the two basic emotions of love or fear.

In every encounter with every individual, if we apply that concept of love or fear, we can understand the emotion behind the behavior. If we understand the emotion that triggered the behavior, we can better deal with the individual.

This patient reacted angrily out of fear that she was going to be incontinent and fear that her needs were not going to be met. You, RowRN, did the best you could do at the time, it was not acceptable to the patient, she could not control her fear, and acted out.

Once the situation was over, a rapport with the patient was possible. Recognizing the patient's fear and showing empathy has the potential to turn a bad situation into a good one.

All any of us need  in any difficult situation is only to be understood and our feelings validated.

Learn that and you will not only build trust with patients- and everybody else for that matter- but you will also feel better about yourself.

Hey- it got me through 40 years in the field.

Good luck and the best to you, RowRN.

canoehead, BSN, RN

Specializes in ER. Has 30 years experience.

You did just fine. She can piss on her shoes if she's going to be rude.

Daisy4RN

Specializes in Travel, Home Health, Med-Surg. Has 20 years experience.

I wonder how you know she is a nurse. In my experience many people say that and they are not. Either way her behavior was completely inappropriate and she obviously didn’t have to go to the BR that bad or she would have been grateful for the basin. If it were me and I did have to go that bad I would have accepted the basin and been grateful, if I didn’t have to go that bad I would have laughed (with you, not at you) and said thanks but I will wait for the BR to be free. Don’t spend any more time on this, that person was wrong for whatever her reason. You did your job and solved the problem, don’t doubt yourself. 

Every nurse has a collection of new nurse stories to tell. I happen to think this one is hilarious. It put a big smile on my face this evening.

You will someday be comforting another new nurse by telling her this one.

 

Emergent, RN

Specializes in ER. Has 28 years experience.

Next time try "I can clearly see you are very frustrated, but I need to ask you not to throw things." Say this in a very calm voice.

If she then yells or asks how long have you been a nurse, you can calmly reply "Long enough to know that you must be having serious stress right now to cause you to throw that basin across the room. Are you feeling like you want to harm yourself or others? Should I call for help? Would you like to speak to pastoral services? I'm going to leave now to call the doctor".

Then do it. The doctor should be informed that his patient is stressed enough to throw something across the room. If he doesn't prescribe a PRN for anxiety,  chart what happened, that you called the physician,  and "no new orders". "No new orders" is code for that there should have been new orders, but the doctor is a blithering idiot😉