“To cure sometimes, to relieve often, to comfort always.”
This quote, often attributed to Hippocrates, perfectly summarizes the mission statement of physicians worldwide. You strive, everyday, to cure ailments and relieve your patients’ symptoms, but success in these areas often depends on factors beyond your control. Relieving anxiety through patient comfort measures, on the other hand, is always within your power.
Unfortunately, in an effort to treat patients efficiently, and free up bed space, patient comfort sometimes falls to the wayside. Although you may have every intention of providing your patients with a comfortable experience, your ultimate goal is likely to treat as many people as possible within each shift.
While implementing additional patient care methods to your work as a doctor seems counterproductive to your goal of treating as many people as possible, there are plenty of methods to ensure patient comfort without adding to care time or impacting efficiency. Here are our top three suggestions:
1. Adopt Patient Comfort into Your Daily Process
Adding steps to your institution’s day-to-day processes can be painful—no pun intended.
First, you have to outline the procedure and achieve buy-in from your staff. Next, you have to monitor progress and make sure your team is upholding their end of the plan. However, while any workplace change requires a period of transition, if your plan is properly implemented it can quickly become a part of your institution’s culture.
For example, some hospitals and practices have developed scripting for staff members. A script for a nurse’s first interaction with a new patient might read, “Hi (patient name), I’m Nurse Smith, and I’m going to help take care of you today. If you need anything, please let me know!”
After several days of using scripting, staff members will automatically default to the new language—it becomes natural.
The same generally holds true for any small procedural change, such as asking patients if they’d like a topical anesthetic before a vaccination, or offering a glass of water to patients in the waiting area.
2. Strive to Build Authentic Relationships
Psychological barriers can develop between healthcare professionals and their patients. It’s part of your job to ask patients all sorts of personal questions about their life and habits but, more times than not, we offer nothing in return. While it’s not appropriate to become overly cozy with patients, it’s imperative to establish common ground and build a social relationship.
You may decide to share an encounter at a local restaurant, a recent family outing or chat about a favorite TV show. Even discussing these seemingly insignificant topics reminds patients you, too, are human. By breaking down—or, at least, lowering—these psychological barriers, you can help put your patients at ease.
3. Remember Patient Comfort Can be a Time-Saver
How much time each day do you and your staff spend calming anxious patients? How often do you have to delay a procedure because a patient becomes agitated or scared? These challenging circumstances can quickly eat away at your schedule and reduce the amount of time available to dedicate to subsequent patients. And, as a physician, you know better than anyone that every minute counts.
However, keep in mind patient comfort measures can save time. Putting in additional effort to create a relaxed environment will help reduce the chances of your patient stalling a procedure. Taking a few moments to make small talk with your patient or ask about his or her comfort preferences can reduce care time and ensure a better experience for everyone involved.
Interested in adopting easy patient comfort measures into minor surgical and needle-based procedures? Learn more about Gebauer’s Pain Ease here.