Understanding the "Difficult" Patient

Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics 13 (1):45-49 (2023)
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Abstract:James Groves opens his 1978 foundational article, "Taking Care of the Hateful Patient," thusly, "Admitted or not, the fact remains that a few patients kindle aversion, fear, despair, or even downright malice in their doctors." Groves understood his article as pulling back the curtain on an experience that physicians had but that few dared discuss without shame. His taxonomy of four types of "hateful" patients: clingers, entitled demanders, manipulative help rejectors, and self-destructive deniers may still be instructive. However, the intervening years have revealed that this taxonomy does not adequately capture the nuances present when patients are described as "difficult." This issue of Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics situates this complexity. Different kinds of providers in a variety of healthcare delivering institutions have offered accounts of their own interactions with so-called difficult patients. In each of these stories, the providers tell the reader how the providers were transformed through these interactions: what they learned about their patients, what they learned about patient care, what they could have done differently or better, and what lessons they have taken with them into subsequent encounters.



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Yolonda Wilson
Howard University

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