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Patients have a right to be rude


Rudeness from a patient can be hard for nurses to deal with – particularly if it comes at the end of a long and stressful day.

Our recent article by a conflict practitioner explores the issue that staff are expected to behave respectfully and courteously to patients at all times, but the same standards of behaviour do not apply to patients. And although your initial reaction may be that you will not accept rudeness, the fact is that yes, patients do have a right to be rude.

As our expert author explains the range of reasons that a patient may appear rude are many. For example it can be prompted by fear, frustration, pain, mental illness, infection, hypoglycaemia, hearing impairment or any number of complex social, physical or mental issues.

It is important to differentiate rudeness from abusive behavior. While patients may have a right to be rude, abusive behavior is unacceptable. Abusive behaviour includes behaviour that is physically threatening, likely to cause harm or damage to people or property or that is verbally abusive, for example, racist or homophobic. Rudeness, on the other hand, can be defined as a lack of manners or courtesy.

”Understanding the reasons behind rude behaviour does not always make it easy to deal with”

Understanding the reasons behind rude behaviour does not always make it easy to deal with, but the article offers coping strategies that nurses can use. The most important strategy is not to take rudeness personally, as therein lies the route to frustration and demoralisation. Accepting that the patient would have spoken in this way to any of your colleagues can help to take the sting out of the situation.

If you have recently had a patient be rude to you and found it difficult to cope with you may find the strategies outlined in this article useful. Engaging with the patient, listening and understanding can turn rudeness into respect.

Read the article here: The right to be rude: managing of conflict


Readers' comments (5)

  • One can be upset but that does not mean they have to be rude. Either we all have a right to be rude or no one has a right to be rude.

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  • I think it's still important to address that someone has been rude to you, although not in a rude manner. Ask them what's bothering them or brought on this behaviour? i always find though if you are persistently nice to someone (patient or not) then eventually they will be nice to you!

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  • Yes, I agree, patients have a right to be rude. Wish they'd figure out how not to be rude :) But they are in a difficult situation most times and what's routine for us is a big deal for them. Active listening by hearing an emotion and saying it is the best way to deal. You sound angry. You sound sad. You sound scared...opens the door to saying how they relaly feel instead of being rude.

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  • I feel I have to disagree with all of you there is no excuse for rudeness, and we as nurses have the same civil rights has everyone else. Rudeness should not be tolerated just as we don't tolerate aggression. Any rudeness needs to be addressed as and when it occurs, as a society we have become tolerant of excepted bad manners and behaviour.

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  • I have to say that I agree with Andrew in all aspects.

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