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Surviving 'difficult' patients

By John Fowler - Educational Consultant By Aby Mitchell First published: Last updated:

One of the first nursing research studies I read was Felicity Stockwell's The Unpopular Patient (Stockwell, 1972), part of the early groundbreaking nursing research that began the shift towards evidence-based nursing. Stockwell's findings showed that nurses did identify some patients as ‘unpopular’ and challenged the readers to examine their interactions with patients and consider the reasons for such feelings. One particularly interesting finding was that unpopular patients were not avoided by the nursing staff, who often spent more time with them at the expense of the ‘uncomplaining’ patients who received less attention. In the 50 years since the work was carried out relatively little empirical research has gone on into the cause, management and effects on staff of those often referred to as ‘difficult patients’.

The danger labels

Although I'm aware of the danger of labelling some patients as ‘difficult’—and that most people can be difficult given certain stressors and frustrations—nearly all clinical

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John Fowler

Explores how to survive your nursing career.

Aby Mitchell

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