How to Reassure Patients Amid New COVID-19 Realities
By Melissa Wirkus Hagstrom, contributor
The battle against COVID-19 has completely transformed the world’s
healthcare delivery model, with new safety precautions, protocols and
prioritization of cases. And the battle is far from over. Fear of catching the
virus has also caused many patients to delay medical care for non-coronavirus
issues, which experts note will lead to more acute health problems down the
Nurses and physicians have the ability to put patients at ease
by explaining new protocols and safety measures in all healthcare settings, including
primary care and hospitals. Using effective communication, they can ensure
patients feel comfortable to seek the medical care they need and follow through
on treatment plans during the global pandemic.
Whether it is providing guidance on safety protocols such as using
face masks and disinfecting techniques, or just simply reassuring a patient
that we will all get through this, providers can find ways to build patient
trust and ultimately achieve the best outcomes.
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validation are key
need extra attention during times like these, and there are many ways to
reassure patients of their safety during COVID-19.
Organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) and Health
Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) have a variety of
resources, toolkits, videos and more that nurses and physicians can leverage to
enhance their patient communication.
For example, for patients who are unsure or resistant about the
cloth face covering guidelines, providers can refer to the scientific resources
and data provided by these organizations to help quell any issues with wearing
resource page for healthcare facilities operating during the
COVID-19 pandemic explains that facilities should place visual alerts, such as
signs and posters in appropriate languages, at entrances and in strategic
places providing instructions on hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene (including
the use of cloth face coverings), and cough etiquette. Their Stop the Spread of Germs poster is a
useful tool that healthcare providers can easily print and display at all
entrances and patient check-in locations.
“I don’t think there is such a thing as over-communicating safety at this
point,” said Matt Eventoff, communication and messaging strategist, founder of
The Oratory Project and owner of Princeton Public Speaking.
Another pillar to reassuring patients during COVID-19 outbreaks is the concept
listening and ensuring that each and every one of your patients
Fact vs. fiction
In a world
that relies on WebMD and other online medical symptom aggregators, nurses and
physicians have more of a duty than ever to help their patients distill fact
from fiction. The list of coronavirus symptoms has been evolving over the last
few months as more data becomes available. The frequent changes, however, are
causing anxiety among many patients.
is essential that providers hear their patients and treat each one as an
individual,” Eventoff explained. “They are not masses. We have been overrun by
statistics and many of them are conflicting. Everyone is coming in to their
healthcare providers with a heightened level of anxiety.”
patients have read information and seen the daily headlines about tens of
thousands of people dying, and the frightening symptoms for survivors. Healthcare
providers can validate their research while also ensuring the patient has the
correct information at hand.
Validation of your patient creates an environment of reassurance, Eventoff
continued. “It’s not about validating what they read on WebMD is true. Instead,
it’s validating that it’s okay that they researched their symptoms on the
Lean in to empathy
have long been recognized as one of the most trusted professions, including 18
straight years atop the annual Gallup polls. They are also among the most
empathetic and compassionate healthcare providers, and the ones who generally
spend the most time with patients.
little empathy goes a long way to reassure patients during COVID-19, helping
them feel like their worries and concerns during these difficult times are
“I think nurses show unbelievable empathy every day, in every situation,”
Eventoff said. “And I think now, more than ever, nurses need to double and
triple and quadruple down on empathy. Because people are scared, they are
nervous, the information is unclear and people are looking to be reassured.”
patient that walks in anxious has an effect on everyone working there—not just
the doctors and not just the nurses. And I think anything that we can do to
alleviate some of that angst is just very, very valuable,” he concluded.
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