Original Publication
Open Access

Dealing with an Angry Patient

Published: February 22, 2010 | 10.15766/mep_2374-8265.1704

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  • Mark Coles.doc

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Editor's Note: This publication predates our implementation of the Educational Summary Report in 2016 and thus displays a different format than newer publications.


This is a standardized patient case that has been used to assess the communication and interpersonal skills of radiology residents when dealing with an angry patient. In the case, the learner is a second-year resident in radiology on his/her first rotation of neuroradiology. The learner arrives to discuss the procedure (a spine MR) and use of IV Gadolinium contrast in an MR of the spine with a 45-year-old male patient with a history of unexplained lower back pain despite multiple previous tests. On speaking with the patient, the learner realizes that he is very angry and that this needs to be taken care of before proceeding with the procedure. The case content can be modified for use in other specialties, but the standardized patient checklist and the self-assessment checklist for the resident can be used without any modification by all residencies. The steps to be taken in dealing with angry patients should be explicitly taught to residents by their respective programs. The standardized patient case materials have been extremely useful. The case was implemented in 2007 and used with two groups of radiology residents in two residency programs. Residents received it well and provided positive comments.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this case, learners will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate good patient-physician interaction skills when dealing with an angry patient who has been referred for an MR.
  2. Recognize the signs of anger.
  3. Make an empathetic statement.
  4. Defuse the patient's anger.
  5. Explain the exam in a way the patient understands.
  6. Address the patient’s concerns.

Author Information

  • Win May, MD, PhD: Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California
  • Beverly Wood, MD, PhD: Keck School of Medicine of the University of So California

None to report.

None to report.


May W, Wood B. Dealing with an angry patient. MedEdPORTAL. 2010;6:1704. https://doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.1704