It’s very common for people to experience severe anxiety whenever they are in a hospital, and rightfully so. If a person gets admitted to the hospital for medical help, then it means the patient is already not in a good place, both mentally and physically. And on top of that, when the patient realizes there is a lot of uncertainty present in this whole situation, it makes things worse. Many people even have “white coat syndrome,” which means they get anxious as soon as they see a healthcare professional.
Because a patient is most probably already irritated and frustrated enough, they get very anxious about the medical procedure they have to go through, how long they need to stay at the hospital, what side effects of the medications they might suffer from, what if they have developed a chronic condition, etc., etc. That is where the role of nurses takes primary importance.
Nurses look after patients and play a huge role in their recovery. But that is not all they can do. During their education, nurses are trained to calm anxious patients by becoming their advocates, counselor, interpreter, etc. In this article, we will look at four ways nurses can ease patient anxiety.
1. Recognize the Anxious Patients:
To help anxious patients, the first thing a nurse must do is to recognize those who are experiencing anxiety. Nurses gain many skills during their studies. For example, online RN to BSN degree programs focuses so much on the importance of advocacy in nursing to help patients. Nurses can act as patients’ advocates when patients cannot voice their opinions properly. They can translate the medical jargon for patients so they can understand the medical procedures. If there are disagreements between family members, doctors, and the patient, they can help the patient in such cases, etc. Thus, nurses can ease the patient’s anxiety by being their advocate.
A nurse can utilize their skills and knowledge to provide excellent care to the patient, but first, they must recognize anxious behavioral patterns in the patient, like withdrawal, sarcasm, or anger. Nurses must look for non-verbal signs of anxiety in a patient body language and facial expressions. Common signs of anxiety are difficulty concentrating, increased heart rate, problems sleeping peacefully, gastrointestinal issues, pain management issues, etc.
2. Communicate Effectively:
To relax an anxious patient, all that nurses need to do is communicate effectively. The hospital environment is foreign to patients; they don’t know what the necessary protocols are, how the drips and the medications are helpful, whether there are any harmful effects of the tests and scans they are going through, why their loved ones can’t visit them for long hours, etc. Nurses understand everything from the patient’s point of view, and they know that the patient is already feeling down, and all these things add to the stress and anxiety.
That’s why nurses must communicate deeply with patients. They should tell patients about the medical procedure they are about to go through, or how important and harmless getting a specific test is, what their reports mean, the possible temporary side effects they might experience due to medicines, how long it will take for them to recover completely, etc. When patient thinks they are being kept in the dark about something, it’s natural for them to experience acute anxiety. That’s why nurses must explain all the things to patients that they need to understand to ease their anxiety.
3. Use Breathing Exercises:
There’s a possibility that a patient might not be good at communicating and voicing their concerns; in that case, if nurses detect signs of anxiety in a patient, even if the patient doesn’t tell or even deny having anxiety completely, the best resort is breathing exercises. Breathing exercises are very helpful in calming down and relaxing, which is why they are a part of most meditation techniques. Nurses can use different controlled breathing methods on anxious patients to ease their anxiety. With the help of deep breathing exercises, nurses can enable patients to slow down their heart, mind, and body. This reduces the negative impacts of stress a patient is experiencing.
Nurses can make patients do breathing exercises in their presence, so they can assist them in real-time, and they can also teach them breathing exercises. So that whenever a patient feels anxious and there is no healthcare professional nearby, they can calm themselves down. There are a lot of exercises that nurses can teach patients, like diaphragmatic breathing, for example. In this breathing exercise, during inhaling, a person’s abdomen expands instead of the chest, and the diaphragm contracts, which results in filling the lungs up with air, thus enhancing oxygen intake. All this reduces anxiety and promotes relaxation. This specific breathing exercise is thus also referred to as abdominal breathing. Nurses commonly use this exercise to help anxious patients.
4. Guided Imagery:
Nurses often use this technique to calm patients in exam rooms. While it may seem similar to performing breathing exercises, both approaches are different. Guided imagery involves a mind and body connection that enables the patient’s mental focus to alleviate the physical symptoms of anxiety they are experiencing. This technique can significantly reduce heart rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure. In guided imagery, nurses ask patients to use their imagination. Nurses tell patients to imagine a thing or a place that they love, for example, a beautiful garden or a beach, or the patient’s home.
The patient must use their imagination to the fullest and think of their favorite thing in such detail so that they feel as if they are holding that thing or are actually in the place they are imagining. With guided imagery, the patient escapes the exam room and goes somewhere comfortable. This helps ease the patient’s nerves. Some nurses also add a verbal element to guided imagery by asking the patient to describe their favorite place and how they feel when they go there—for example, explaining the feeling of walking on soft sand on the beach, feeling sunlight on their face, inhaling fresh air, etc.
It makes sense that not everyone is used to the environment in a hospital or a clinic, and thus it’s common for patients to feel anxious when they have to go to such a place. Nurses play a huge role in calming patients down and easing their anxiety. Nurses look for signs of anxiety in a patient, and by using their skills and knowledge, they help the patient relax even in tense situations. In this article, we point out four ways nurses can help patients to ease their anxiety.