This site is intended for healthcare professionals only

De-escalating patient anger

Written by: | Published:

A combination of fear and illness may result in vo A combination of fear and illness may result in volatile situations in the healthcare setting

Dealing with angry or frustrated patients is considered an occupational hazard of working in healthcare. In a study examining the determinants of aggression in a hospital setting, 46.7% of aggressive acts were carried out by patients and 64.3% of the recipients of those acts were nurses, especially female nurses.1 This article presents techniques for managing emotional patients and avoiding verbally or physically violent outbursts.

Recognising an aggressive patient

The two major contributors of distress in patients are fear and illness.2 The medical environment creates high levels of stress for both patients and nurses – and when the patient’s fear, vulnerability and illness are added into the mix, the atmosphere is ripe for tensions to soar.

This is exacerbated by what many see as major design flaw in the healthcare system, where the focus is on aftercare rather than preventative care. The mental health of patients and their loved ones can be neglected in efforts to address the physical illness, with those emotions culminating into what can become irate or aggressive scenes.

Fortunately, you can often spot signs of an agitated patient, which gives you the opportunity to de-escalate a difficult situation before it gets out of control. The key signs of patient agitation are:3

    A tightened jaw

    Stiff posture



    Clenched fists

    Please login or register to read the rest of the article and to have access to downloads and comments.

    What do you think? Leave a comment below or tweet your views to @IndyNurseMag

This material is protected by MA Healthcare Ltd copyright.
See Terms and Conditions.

Read a free issue from Practice Nursing

Register to read a free issue from our sister publication, Practice Nursing.

Including articles on asthma, diabetes and more. Read your copy.


Sign up to the newsletter


Independent Nurse is the professional resource for primary care and community nurses, providing clinical articles for practice nurses and prescribers.


Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up to date with the latest nursing news.

Stay Connected

Stay social with Independent Nurse by following us on Twitter, liking us on Facebook or connecting on LinkedIn.


Need access to some of our older articles? You can view our archive, or alternatively contact us.

Contact Us

MA Healthcare Ltd.
St Jude's Church, Dulwich Road
London, SE24 0PB

Tel: +44 (0)20 7738 5454
Registered in England and Wales No. 01878373

Meet the team


Find out how to contribute to Independent Nurse here.