You’ve probably spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out how to deal with anxious patients. Every medical professional has surely had them at some point in their careers, considering how common patient anxiety is, with numbers ranging anywhere from 11% to 80% of adult patients.
Their anxiety can be completely harmless, manifesting only in slight discomfort, but in higher degrees, patient anxiety can get in the way of the care of these patients or cause tension between patients and their medical attendants. Worse, it could ruin their whole experience with care, making them even more anxious the next time they seek help.
With the prevalence of anxiety in patients, and its potentially adverse effects on patients seeking medical care, it is only imperative that industry professionals – especially those that give firsthand care and interaction – be knowledgeable in handing these situations.
One of the most basic principles in reducing patient anxiety is acknowledging their anxiety. This allows the patient to open up about their fears, and you, the medical professional, to address these fears.
Here are a few other tips on how to deal with anxious patients:
Several studies, like this one done on chemotherapy patients, found that educating patients about the procedure or their condition effectively reduces patient anxiety. But when it comes to patient education, this other study done on colonoscopy patients found out that simply handing out leaflets and educational materials to patients is not as effective as interactive patient education methods. Getting a chance to thoroughly educate the patients is allowing them a sense of control in a situation where they often feel helpless and uncertain by letting them know what to expect.
Anxiety can be brutally contagious. When the patient senses a lot of tension or fear in the people that surround them, they are more likely to feel worse. Extend the same education and communication to the family members, because they’re the ones who can best encourage the anxious patient.
Any trace of anxiety and uncertainty from you can be stressful for the patient. Use language that is calm and understanding as opposed to impersonal and robotic.
Perhaps the best way to do this is to ask yourself, “What if this were me or someone close to me?”
It is easy to dismiss strangers, especially when you are tired or feel like the fear is overblown. But though you may have witnessed these medical procedures go off without a hitch a million times, it may be the first time for the anxious patient and they are filled with uncertainty. Put yourself in your anxious patient’s shoes and figure out how you would feel and how you would prefer to be treated under stressful circumstances.
Gaining a person’s trust in any situation can be challenging. But it is more challenging to convince anyone to trust you when you don’t look the part of someone they can rely on, especially with something as important as their lives. Make sure you show up to your patients looking and smelling clean, well put-together, and wearing professional attire that fits your rank.
It’s harder to believe that a medical facility can be trusted to take care of your life when its medical professionals wear dirty, faded, damaged, or poorly-maintained uniforms. These are indications of improper management, lack of attention to detail, and general disregard.
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