For patients of any age, a trip to the hospital can be uncomfortable. However, for pediatric patients, it can be especially traumatic. In addition to the reason for their visit, which is likely stressful on its own, they’re introduced to an environment full of unusual sights and sounds. Depending on their age, they may have unpleasant memories of previous hospital visits. Not to mention, television shows and movies don’t exactly portray hospitals as a bright and cheerful space.
As you’ve likely experienced, when a pediatric patient becomes anxious, administering treatment can become especially difficult. The situation can become emotionally stressful for not only the child, but his or her parents and, often, for the nurse and staff providing care.
In order to reduce hospital anxiety in your younger patients, consider the following 7 tips:
Anxiety is contagious. It’s easy to become frazzled during a busy shift, but, when you become tense and stressed, it’s usually evident in your voice and body language. A healthcare provider who shows anxiousness only serves to enhance the nervousness of young patients and their parents. They count on you to remain strong and composed, no matter the situation.
Luckily, calmness is also infectious. By breathing evenly and speaking confidently, you can help your patient to relax and feel at ease.
Talk Through the Experience
Many times, pediatric patients are anxious because they don’t know what to expect. Will you be giving them a shot? Is it going to hurt? Will they have to stay overnight or be separated from their parents? The best way to assuage their fears is by recognizing and communicating with them. Instead of talking only with the parents, include children in the conversation as much as is appropriate for their age and level of understanding.
The power of music as an anti-anxiety agent has been studied for decades. Research proves certain types of music has elicit a wide variety of physical and emotional responses. For example, slow tempos can relax muscles and soothe the mind. By playing soft, relaxing music—either in the exam room, or through headphones given to the patient—you can offer fast anxiety relief to a fearful child.
Nurses who have spent a great deal of time on the pediatrics floor know a little distraction goes a long way. Take patients’ minds off their concerns by asking questions about their interests. Engage them by asking about school, their favorite TV shows, their pets and their friends. Encourage them to share stories. The more they concentrate on these subjects, the less they’ll dwell on their fears.
Offer a Treat
Few things can help children switch gears faster than the presentation of a reward. Some hospitals offer lollipops or other sweets, but this isn’t the only option. Instead of a sugary snack, which could make pediatric patients hyper and restless, provide them the opportunity to choose a small toy from a treasure chest.
One of the best ways to change a child’s perception of the hospital is to pique her interest. Take time to explain various instruments and machines. Allow her to listen to her own heartbeat through your stethoscope. In addition to feeling pride in her new knowledge, she’ll feel more comfortable with her surroundings.
Make Physical Comfort a Top Priority
One of the primary reasons children fear the hospital is because they’re afraid they’re going to feel pain. Even if the reason for their visit is causing them a greater amount of pain than any discomfort caused by an injection or blood draw, the idea of being stuck with a needle can be alarming. Applying an instant topical anesthetic will not only help improve patient comfort, but knowing they’ll feel less pain can help calm your patients’ nerves.
When it comes to children and hospital anxiety, no one tactic is a surefire solution. The patient’s age, prior hospital experience, personality and the reason for their visit, can all factor in to how they’ll respond to anxiety-reducing tactics. However, by combining a variety of solutions, you can help improve your young patients’ hospital experience.
Are you providing the best patient comfort measures? Check out our guide to increasing patient satisfaction and learn tips nurses like you can use every day.