Patient Anxiety & The Dental Nurse... What??
So you have a patient coming in today, its Tuesday 6th May, they're coming in at 10.30am to have a root canal treatment. You know they have had bad experiences in the past, suffer from anxiety and often gets really sweaty sometimes rude... what do you do? how do you handle this situation?
Well, this happens a lot in dentistry! pretty much every day we have at least one patient who comes in nervous, sweaty and looking worried. But knowing how to handle this scenario will help you (the dental nurse), the dentist but most importantly... THE PATIENT 😊
Step 1: Knowing how to identify anxious/ nervous behaviour is the key to starting the calming process. Are they agitated? Sweating? Stumbling on their words? Looking more worried than usual? these are definite signs of anxiety. Don't forget some signs of anxiety can come across as rude, aggressive and irritated behaviour- keep calm and supportive.
So when the patient is showing these signs, be sure to sit with them (either in the surgery chair or in a consultation room), ask them "are you feeling ok for today's treatment? have you got any questions before we start? what are you most worried about?" this will allow the patient to feel supported, understood and have a chance to get anything off their chest.
Step 2: Give your patient time to get comfortable, understand whats going to happen and let them know that at all times they are in control. - most times, patients feel they are rushed, not able to ask questions or they're helpless when in the chair. Reassure your patient they can raise their hand for us to stop, if they would like a break, simply raise a hand. This allows your patient to trust you and to feel control.
Step 3: Throughout the treatment, tell your patient "you're doing great well done" if you notice any short breaths or inconsistent movements "please take a deep breath through your nose... and out slowly through your mouth", to let the patient know you are there for them, you can touch them on the shoulder and guide them through the breathing technique you can even count down with the patient.
Step 4: After the treatment ends, allow the patient to come around to sit and relax for a couple of minutes. When the patient is ready, make sure to reassure them that they've done a great job & that they have come a long way from when coming in the room. Reward them with a positive influence and walk with them to the waiting room, letting them know they can take a seat for as long as they need.
Don't ever loose sight of what going through dental treatment is like, we are all humans and must understand that everyone copes differently to different things.
You've got this!