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Responding To Those Who Don't Want Your Help

Responding To Those Who Don't Want Your Help

Ethan Vizitei

I’ve seen this hostility from a few different types of patients in the field.  Diabetics with low blood sugar are a common “possibly hostile” patient, but the good news is these are often the easiest ones to deal with.  Once you get their blood sugar back up (either with oral glucose, or with a paramedic doing an IV and pushing dextrose), they’re usually in a much better mood.  Patients with mental conditions that can cause some amount of paranoia are also candidates for possessing unnecessary anger or fear (Dementia and Alzheimer’s come to mind).  

These patients can sometimes be managed by utilizing whatever family or caretakers are around, because they’re probably used to dealing with their moods and will know what steps to take to redirect or dispense with their negative emotions.  The tough ones, for me, are the patients like in my story above: the drug abusers.  You never know if it’s the drug itself that sparks their rage at you, or their fear of being judged that makes them carry a chip on their shoulder.  Either way, I haven’t had good luck dealing with them.  In the end, I find it honestly hard to find compassion for someone who’s doing these things to themselves.

And I’ll openly admit this is a thing I need to work on.  My feeling is, all patients should be shown respect, empathy, and compassion.  Not because they’ve earned it or necessarily deserve it, but because it’s the right thing to do.  If they reject it and get ticked off at you, there may not be a lot you can do about it; in my jurisdiction we’re supposed to call law enforcement in to manage these patients because typically they aren’t in a competent mental state where they can refuse treatment.  But you can’t carry that with you.  Bad calls are going to happen-calls that piss you off, that rub you the wrong way.  The worst thing you can do is get jaded and cynical.  The actions of a few angry patients can easily color your view of all the patients you’ll be helping in the future.  Next thing you know you’re being gruff and snide with any patient you suspect is a drug addict.   It’s not worth going down that road.  Those “old dogs” you sometimes see who treat their patients with empty and uncaring eyes weren’t always that way.  

The reason I  (and many others) got into this business was to help people; to use that natural compassion we feel as human beings to make other’s lives better.  What a shame it would be if in pursuit of that goal we lost all the empathy that motivated us in the first place.