How to Make Recommendations to a Stubborn Patient

It’s something that most nurses will deal with at some point or another: the stubborn patient who balks at your recommendations and doesn’t trust what you’re telling them. And there are patients who will continue to exhibit potentially harmful behaviors no matter what you tell them. Take vaping, for instance — a nurse can tell a patient about the proven risks, but that person may very well continue to vape. So how can you get through to stubborn patients and try to make a real difference?

Explain as Clearly As You Can

Sometimes, a patient is stubborn about taking recommendations because they don’t fully understand their diagnosis or the treatment plan. So make sure to take your time and convey these details to the patient as clearly as you can. Discuss what the treatment entails and what the end goal is, as well as continuing recovery steps that may happen once the patient is discharged from your facility.

Get a Second Opinion

There is power in numbers. Often, a stubborn patient might be hesitant to take your recommendations because he or she doesn’t trust your advice or opinion on its own. Backing up your recommendation with another nurse or doctor’s diagnosis and treatment can change that. When the patient hears multiple people telling them the same thing, it’s much more likely that they’ll accept it. Then, you can move into the treatment phase.

Think About Outside Factors

Remember that there are sometimes outside factors at play that affects a patient’s decision making. For instance, it’s possible that their insurance won’t cover the medication you’re recommending. If you can work together and find another brand of the same medication that is covered, the situation will be resolved. So keep in mind that factors like this can play a role in a stubborn patient’s mind — there might be more happening than meets the eye. Getting to the bottom of it is the only way to make sure the patient takes your recommendations and gets the care they need.

Consider a Little Shock Value

There are also times when a stubborn patient just doesn’t realize how serious their situation can be. In these instances, a small bit of shock value can help. Consider telling the patient about similar cases you’ve seen and the poor results that have come from them. Don’t go overboard and frighten the patient, but make it clear to them what can happen if they don’t take your recommendations seriously.


When all is said and done, your patient has the autonomy to make their own choices. But doing your best to explain the diagnosis clearly and recommend the correct course of treatment is your duty — taking every step possible to get through to a stubborn patient is of the utmost importance.


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