Just because an imaging procedure like MRI is safe, doesn’t mean that your patients will feel safe. As a radiological technologist, you perform these procedures everyday. You made it through years of schooling, and lots of investment of time and study. Your comfort level with radiation is high, because you know how to use it appropriately, and you understand the nuances of these complex systems. Your patients, however, will almost always lack this insight. Don’t assume that a lead apron or comfy xray positioning sponge is all that’s needed for your patient to feel confident. Sometimes a patient will be distressed when he or she is immobilized. Strapping patients down prevents falls and movements which would obscure the final image, but if immobilization is a source of anxiety, it’s important for you to help your patient through it.
Great radiology accessories and excellent job skills won’t be enough to inspire confidence in some nervous patients. For these individuals, even simple procedures like echocardiogram can be unnerving. Many of these patients will only understand “radiation” in the most abstract sense. The word might call to mind images from comic books, wartime, or half-remembered articles from a friend’s Facebook page. Whatever the cause of radiation anxiety, the radiological technologist is a front line defense to help make the patient feel better. Here are a few simple steps to A) assess and B) relieve such anxiety:
Ask the Right Questions. It is possible to determine your patient’s state of mind with a few empathetic questions. “How are you feeling today?” “Have you ever had a procedure like this performed?” “Do you have any questions I can answer before we begin?” You’ll be able to tell by the answer, and even by the tone of voice used, how your patient is really feeling. If you detect anxiety, work to relieve it.
Address Concerns. If your patient is concerned that an MRI will cause more harm than good, explain the reality of the situation. That there is for example, no radiation involved with MRI procedures. Briefly, but clearly, explain your knowledge about how any given imaging procedure is determined to be safe for a patient like the one in your office today. If your patient is worried about being immobilized, take it slow and explain how being strapped in will actually keep the patient safe, even if it is a little strange at first.
If Legitimate Anxiety Persists, Review Safety Protocols. All that’s usually needed to calm a nervous patient is a good bedside manner. But in the rare event that a patient is still nervous, review your risk assessment protocols with regard to this specific patient. If all safety protocols are addressed, continue with the procedure with confidence.
Making a radiology patient feel safe is more than making sure the lead apron fits snugly, or the x-ray positioning sponge is sized well. Techno-Aide engineers and sells radiology accessories. But even the best radiology products and most careful expertise won’t be enough to calm down a nervous patient. Take the time to listen to your patient, then soothe worries with the hard facts about radiation safety. Not only will new knowledge promote peace of mind, but your professional courtesy will go a long way in making your patient feel safe during all future procedures.