When your patient has a fear of hospitals and doctors
Feb. 16, 2016
No one enjoys going to the hospital, but for some patients, visiting the hospital or the doctor brings with it extreme fear.
In your health care career, medical professionals that work directly with patients need to understand this fear, know the signs of it and learn to interact with patients experiencing fear.
When we train medical professionals at Concorde Career Colleges, we commit to making sure they are prepared for every part of the job, including patient interaction.
Here’s a closer look at helpful information students can use to interact with fearful patients correctly, enhancing their experiences in a clinical setting.
WHAT CAUSES FEAR OF HOSPITALS/DOCTORS?
Before you can understand how to approach fearful patients, you must understand what causes this fear or phobia in patients. In many cases, it goes back to the patient’s past.
They might have had a traumatic or negative event occur that was associated with a doctor or hospital. This traumatic experience could have been a disease diagnosis for a loved one, a scary diagnosis of their own, or the death of a loved one. For other patients, hospitals often remind them of their own mortality, which is scary and difficult to deal with. More prosaic issues might result in the fear of hospitals, such as smells, sick roommates, backless gowns and a completely lack of privacy. Media reports surrounding medical mishaps often result in fear among patients.
SIGNS A PATIENT MIGHT HAVE A FEAR OF HOSPITALS/DOCTORS
It’s important to be aware of a patient’s fear to treat the patient effectively. Some of the emotional and physical symptoms of a fear or phobia include:
- Excessive sweating
- Panic attacks, which may include trembling, running away, shivering, or shaking
- Feelings of uncontrollable anxiety
- Rapid shallow breathing
- Elevated heart rate
- Avoidance behavior, such as refusing to go to the doctor or hospital
- Nausea or vomiting
HOW TO APPROACH FEARFUL PATIENTS
Fearful patients must be treated uniquely, and one of the best ways to approach a fearful patient is from a point of understanding.
Being aware of the fear is very important, and once you’re aware of the fear, you can address that fear and let patients know that you understand. Don’t be afraid to have patients talk about their fears. In many cases, encouraging the patient to talk about the fear will help them work through it.
Making sure you keep patients involved in decisions and engage in regular communication can go a long way to alleviating that fear. By letting patients stay involved in medical decisions, you’ll give them the feeling they are still in control, something that’s important because loss of control often fuels patient fears.
ENHANCING THE FEARFUL PATIENT’S EXPERIENCE
What can you do to enhance a fearful patient’s experience? First, arrival and discharge procedures need to treat patients like a human instead of a number.
Communication among staff members and patients should be friendly and direct. Patients should be offered helpful services and amenities during their stay, such as media and entertainment, relaxation, food services and the ability to have visitors.
By increasing staff awareness, focusing on patient involvement and ensuring patients have social support, it’s possible to help patients through their fears, ensuring they get the treatments they require.