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Common Reactions to Verbal Assaults by Patients

Most of us do not expect to be the recipients of verbal assaults at work. We try to do our best in caring for every patient, yet at times, we may become the target of negative verbal attacks.  Listed below are some normal reactions to such an event and some suggestions on how to take care of yourself: 

  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Disorganized or distracted
  • Bothersome memories
  • Crying
  • Anger
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Feeling on edge or jumpy
  • Physical complaints

All of these feelings and reactions are normal and natural responses especially if there is repetitive name calling and use of profanity.  It is also normal to have no reactions; they may come later or not at all.  If you have ever been a victim of trauma, it may be more difficult.  We are all individuals and cope and respond in our own ways.  Most of these reactions will subside within 1-2 weeks. 

Here are some suggestions to keep in mind: 

  • Share the incident with your manager and co-workers. 
  • Try to maintain your usual schedule after your shift and on your days off. 
  • Recurring thoughts about a verbal barrage directed towards you are normal, they will decrease over time.  It usually takes 10-14 days for the intensity of the thoughts to diminish. 
  • Seek help if the feelings become prolonged. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to you as a free and confidential resource.  If you want to talk, have questions, want information or consultation now or in the future… call for assistance. 

For more information or to discuss employee or workplace concerns please contact Partners Employee Assistance Program at 1-866-724-4EAP.

In case of emergency, please call 911 or your local hospital emergency service.


This content was last modified on: 10/09/2014

Partners EAP is not a service for the general public.

In case of emergency, please call 911 or your local hospital emergency service.

Call Us: 1-866-724-4EAP