Tips for reducing patient anxiety

Anyone who has ever gone into a hospital for surgery knows just how anxiety inducing it can be. No matter how serious the operation is, it can still be nerve-wracking. Many people even feel the effects of "white coat" syndrome when visiting their primary care physician for a yearly checkup. Nurses can play an important role in reducing patient anxiety and making the overall healthcare experience more pleasant. This is an especially important skill for perioperative nurses.

Patients of all ages and backgrounds can feel the effects of anxiety when visiting the doctor. Keep reading to learn more about how to ease patient fears:

Detecting anxiety
When considering anxiety, people outside the medical field might imagine a person shaking, sweating and looking frightened. While some patients are very openly anxious, many may look quite calm on the exterior while feeling panicked within. A study conducted by researchers in Scandinavia found that it would be helpful to use an anxiety scale similar to that which is used to determine pain levels. Nurses could ask patients how nervous or anxious they are feeling when checking on the rest of their vitals. This could help caregivers adopt a warmer and more comforting persona when treating patients. However, patients who are feeling anxious won't always admit to it. Nurses should be on the lookout for telltale signs of anxiety, such as an elevated heart rate that's beyond the patient's typical heart rate.

Anxiety can be expressed in a number of ways.Anxiety can be expressed in a number of ways.

Common anxiety symptoms
Not every patient with anxiety will exhibit the same symptoms, though it is important for nurses to familiarize themselves with some of the most common ones. While anxiety can be caused by merely visiting the doctor's office, it can be exacerbated by other circumstances such as drug use, phobias and mental disorders. According to the Mayo Clinic, these are some of the most common anxiety symptoms:

  • Sweating.
  • Trembling.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Gastrointestinal issues.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Trouble sleeping.

Before an operation, patients may experience any of these symptoms in addition to panic attacks and difficulty managing pain. Some patients may be able to distract themselves from anxiety by reading, watching TV or talking with friends and family. Others, however, may need the help of medication to relax.

Helping patients with anxiety
One of the biggest factors in helping patients with anxiety is understanding from their nurses. According to PubMed Health, nurses can show their understanding by speaking with patients about how they feel as well as doing all they can to reduce wait times. Engaging in pleasant banter while waiting for the physician to visit can help patients keep their minds off their health problems.

Getting assistance from hospital counselors and social workers is another good option for patients with severe anxiety disorders. Other helpful options include massage, acupuncture and aromatherapy.

Learning to help patients manage their anxiety can lead to better experiences at the hospital. It can also help nurses better manage their workload during a busy shift. The more understanding nurses are of the situation, the easier it will be to get patients through their care experience.

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