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So you’ve been fired by a patient. It’s not pleasant. But the good news is that you are not the only one who has had this experience. Getting fired is a natural part of patient care. Not everyone that you interact with will like you or the experience you provide for them. How you respond in the aftermath of being fired can make or break you as a nurse. Here are five steps to help you handle being fired by a patient gracefully.

1. Don’t fight back.

Chances are that when a patient fires you, they will be angry and maybe even shouting. If you fight back and try to defend yourself, things are likely to escalate further. The best thing to do in this situation is to walk away. Go visit or call your charge nurse and see what your next steps should be. While you are doing this, the patient may calm down and potentially be more reasonable. If not, then hopefully your charge nurse will be able to switch around the assignments.

2. Reflect on the situation.

After you have calmed down and had some distance from the event, try to reflect on the situation and learn from it. Consider the root cause of the event and then think back to see whether there was anything you might have said or done differently. If so, then use this unfortunate event as a learning experience for your future patient care.

3. Try not to take it personally.

You may not ever truly understand the reason a patient fired you. There may be a variety of circumstances beyond your control that are affecting your patient. Take a moment to put yourself in the patient’s shoes. Are they in a lot of pain? Have they recently gotten upsetting news? If this is the case, remember that this could have happened to any of your coworkers. The patient most likely isn’t lashing out at you personally, but rather, they are upset by their situation.

4. Grieve, be upset and vent.

It is completely okay and normal to be upset about being fired by a patient. Take some time to grieve and vent in a healthy way to your coworkers. Chances are, they have been there too and will be empathetic to your situation. If you don’t feel like talking to your coworkers, write down your thoughts, and after you are done, tear the paper into a million pieces! Not only will you get a mental release from the writing, but you will also be able to express your anger or sadness in a healthy way as you tear up the paper.

5. Accept it and move on!

The last step to dealing gracefully with being fired by a patient is very simple: Accept the things you cannot change and move on. If you obsess about and dwell on the event, it can wear you down and cause burnout. Take heart in knowing that this happens to every nurse at some point in their career, and that it most likely won’t happen to you again for a long time!

Sarah Cruzan, BSN, RN

Sarah Cruzan is a nurse on a Family Maternity Unit.

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