The Ultimate Guide to Managing Anxiety in Patients


We can all agree that nobody really wants to be sick at the hospital; patients would rather be at home and healthy. This leads to stress, anxiety, pain, and fear in the hospital setting and unfortunately are all common emotions experienced not only by patients and families, but healthcare workers as well.

The ability to address patient concerns is one of many important characteristics of a health care professional, nurses included. How can you as a healthcare professional deal with anxious patients? Let's get started. 

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is the mind and body's reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations. It is an emotional state where people feel tension, worried or experience physical changes, such as high blood pressure. In other words, anxiety is the response your body gives when there is a possibility of danger and consists of three components - behaviors, thoughts and feelings. 

Hospital anxiety is a particular brand of panic that someone feels when walking into a doctor's office, hospital, or urgent care center. Normally, hospital anxiety increases as waiting times do. It can come from many places and take many shapes.

Symptoms will include a feeling of panic or dread. A person going through an anxiety attack will feel a sudden and intense feeling of fear, that will normally fade away. If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety for longer than 10 minutes, you might be having a panic attack. Other symptoms include sweating, trembling, heart palpitations, and chest pain. In extreme cases, the sufferer may begin to feel dizzy or nauseous.

Entering into a medical facility is a fairly common anxiety trigger in people who have a preexisting anxiety issue, and people who have never had anxiety before.

Types of Anxiety

  • Panic disorder - Severe fear occurring without any warning.
  • Agoraphobia - This is fear that comes when you feel it would be a hassle escaping.
  • Social anxiety disorder - Fear of being embarrassed or humiliated.
  • Specific phobia - Fear that results when you are trying to avoid something.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder - This is fear or worry that persists for a long time, though, without any panic attacks.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder - Obsession refers to repetitive thoughts or impulses while compulsions refer to what you do to get out of the anxiety. 

7 Proven Ways to Deal with Anxious Patients 

 1. Greet Your Patients 

Your hospital's first impression is very critical. When patients visit the hospital, show them that you care about their emotional needs. A simple greeting will help ease their anxiety and make them feel valued.

Hospital employees are often overwhelmed as people get sick daily. So it's understandable for them to lose focus at some point. However, this shouldn't be an excuse - it's what sets them apart from other careers.

As such, medical staff should embrace the positive effects of empathy to alleviate anxiety in patients. While empathy is something that's acquired naturally, it's a skill worth giving a practice.

 2. Play them a Soothing Music 

A study by Science Daily reported significant improvements in patients with anxiety when you play them soothing music. Patients who listened to music before surgery were more relaxed than the other group. They were more satisfied after their surgery.

While music is often overlooked in most medical offices, playing soft music in the examination room will go a long way to help patients feel better. And because anxiety is common in the exam room, this technique can help medical staff enhance a calm environment.

 3. Help Your Patients Relax 

Anxiety tends to vary from every individual. Patients who are critically ill manifest their anxiety through sarcasm, anger, or withdrawal. Nurses can tell the level of anxiety after the initial examination or with the help of an anxiety scale. Non-verbal signals in a patient's gestures and facial expressions will help determine anxiety. While the patient might deny feeling anxious, check out for symptoms that might not be common.

If you notice anxiety in your patients, please ask them what you can do to help them relax. Some patients are open enough to talk about it, but if they don't, it might be time to execute some relaxation techniques. For example, you can ask them to breathe in and out. Meanwhile, take note of the critical signs to make sure that the patient isn't anxious. Also, giving the patient some space will help ease anxiety. 

 4. Make them Understand the "What" and "Why" 

You must explain to your patients every step of the medical process they are about to undergo. This way, patients will feel that you know what you are doing and feel more secure under your care. Additionally, it is also an excellent way to put your patient's mind at ease.

There are a couple of questions that patients might have but feel afraid to ask. For example, patients may want to know how long the process will take, how they will feel once the process is complete, and whether or not they are exposed to any risk that may come due to the process.

 5. Listen to Your Patients 

Good listening skill is critical to all healthcare professionals who handle patients every day. When you take your time to listen to every patient, they feel respected and more relieved that they will get better care from you. While it's true that you have a busy schedule throughout the day; attending to other patients, listen to all patients.

Most patients will feel confident if you can listen to their concerns and address those concerns. Even though most people will come into your patient's room to check on them, make it a habit of asking them how they are fairing on if they have any issues they want to be addressed, and so on. This will help minimize the anxiety that comes with being in the hospital. 

 6. Be Empathetic 

Understand your assumptions and biases and put yourself in the patient's shoes. Different people will react to different situations, and so you shouldn't conclude that someone else will behave the same way. Make your patients understand that many others have passed through the same situation and that they will be fine.

Your patients have every reason to feel anxious because being in the hospital is something nobody would ever like. However, learning how you can manage anxiety in your patients is a skill that you will have throughout your entire life. Be empathetic to your patients and share with them the anxiety so that they can feel a little bit secure.

 7. Make Comforting a Top Priority 

One of the reasons why most patients don't feel comfortable going to the hospital is because they anticipate that they will feel pain. It doesn't matter how sick they are - what they worry about is the injections or operations that they may undergo. That is why you need to reassure your patients that they will feel less pain if you apply a topical anesthetic.

When it comes to managing anxiety in different patients, there are a lot of factors that will come into play. From the patient's age, the experience they once had when they visited the hospital, to their personality, or their reason for visiting the hospital will all factor in. Once you have a good understanding of the above factors, you can comfort your patients by reassuring them that all will be well.

Master of Science in Healthcare Administration 

Managing anxiety in patients is still a significant concern in many health facilities. It needs health professionals with top-notch anxiety managing skills, such as empathy, being tolerant, good listening skills, and most importantly, someone with vast knowledge and experience in healthcare.

American Vision University Master of science in Healthcare Administration can help you acquire the required knowledge to help better manage the anxiety in your patients even better. It gives you an upper hand to understand different psychological situations that would help you come up with better ways to manage anxiety in patients.


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American Vision University offers graduate degree programs in Business and Healthcare such as Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Master of Science in Healthcare Administration (MS), in addition, to professional short-term certification courses in Business, I.T and Healthcare.
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