Healthcare can be confusing and distressing for many patients. Being admitted to a hospital for any reason can be one of the more stressful events in a person’s life. Because of this, it is important to remember that anxiety is the root cause for many conflicts in healthcare settings; so a difficult patient or family member isn’t necessarily a rude or ornery person most of the time, they may just be experiencing symptoms of anxiety.
The first step in mitigating a patient’s anxiety is to introduce yourself and explain your role in their treatment plan. Explain everything you are going to do and why you are doing it. Patients are inexperienced in healthcare procedures, and it can be easy to take your knowledge for granted. Come armed with hand-outs and as much information as you can; the more knowledgeable the patient feels, they more comfortable they will be.
Next, it is important to listen to your patient and take their needs seriously. Active listening techniques, such as asking open-ended questions, taking an interest in their lives, or checking in on their feelings, can be a vital lifeline to someone suffering from anxiety. Check in with them often, and give them a venue to voice their concerns.
Instead of instructing the patient to relax, demonstrate it! Your demeanor can have a profound effect on a patient’s emotional well-being, so staying cool and collected can relax them in turn. Consider using relaxation techniques like breathing exercises to help them cope with anxiety.