With visitors being banned at most hospitals and health care facilities because of the spread of the coronavirus, nurses are often now one of the only contacts that patients have. So how can you help keep your patients calm during this scary time?

Dr. Judi Kuric, academic coordinator for Walden University’s MSN Gerontology Acute Care NP program, and a nurse practitioner board-certified in adult-gerontology, family, and emergency care. She took the time to answer our questions about keeping your patients as calm as possible.

What are the easiest things that nurses can do to help keep patients calm?

Nurses should keep patients informed about their status and treatment plan. There are a lot of scary stories circulating that can increase a patient’s fears about their own condition. Clear, simple, and individualized information will help allay a patient’s fears.

Set expectations and next steps for the patient each day. Identify one or two daily goals to help the patient understand their priorities for the day. Goals could include exercising their lungs by expanding them hourly or walking around the room three times daily.

Provide meaningful distractions such as favorite television shows, movies, or music to entertain and engage the patient and decrease anxiety.

What are some tips that nurses can use to keep patients calm on a daily basis?

Hospital routines and activities like repeatedly checking a patient’s vital signs can increase their stress. Counteract this by providing reassurance on their physical status. Give feedback when their status is stable or better. If a patient’s physical status is worse, help them understand the plan for improvement. Provide ways patients can help themselves and involve them in developing goals. These can be as simple as taking 10 full, slow, and deep breaths every 30 minutes.

Many facilities are playing uplifting songs or classical music throughout the hospital or unit several times a day.

Encourage contact with family and friends using social media.

What can nurses say to patients?

Open, honest, and calm communication is always best. A patient’s imagination can add to their fears about complications or outcomes that may not apply to them. Engage patients in discussions about their fears and try to address each one. Build continuing and meaningful dialogue with the patient by asking them about a family member, a favorite vacation, or their hobbies. This helps you learn more about the patient and also engages them in positive memories.

How should nurses act around them to keep them calm? Confident? Use calming voices?

The stress nurses are feeling has increased in the pandemic. The pandemic means nurses are providing higher levels of care that require additional equipment, procedures, and safety measures. Restrictions on visitors mean nurses must strive to fill the void for conversation, compassion, and smaller tasks that comfort patients.

Avoid passing on your own stress and anxiety. Try to refocus as you enter each patient’s room; use a calm voice, and make sure your activities seem unhurried. Don’t talk with patients about your stresses.

Nurses need to take care of themselves. If your stress level is lower, you’ll be less likely to pass on your worries to patients.

What can nurses encourage family and friends to do to help the patients stay calm and more relaxed? Write letters? Use social media? Facetime?

Now is the perfect time to use social media. Have set times for family members to video chat with the patient, and ask loved ones to send emails or post on social media. If hospital policy allows it, provide the patient with pictures and letters.

It’s important to encourage families to be calm and use their interaction time with the patient to be positive and supportive. This isn’t the time to detail all the anxiety they are feeling or the stressful things happening at home.

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