Five Ways To Put Your Diagnostic Imaging Patients At Ease

Photo by Martha Dominguez de Gouveia on Unsplash

Worried is an understatement. There is nothing worse than entering a doctor’s office or imaging center anxious for answers, only to be ignored.

You walk up to the reception desk and the clerk is on the phone. There’s no eye contact. No “hello, I’ll be right with you”. Nothing. Nada.

You’ve been here 20 seconds and you’re ready to “about-face” straight out the front door!

Pulling yourself together, you sign your name on the clipboard and take a seat — praying to God someone sees it and calls you back soon. The sooner you go back, the sooner you’ll get out of here.

While “Anna”, (well she looks like an Anna), seems to wrap up her phone call, your what-if thoughts of doom plague your brain causing your palms to sweat and your heart to race.

“I wish I knew how long this is going to take. Maybe I should reschedule when someone can tag along for support. What if it’s cancer? Will I have to undress…..did I remember to put on deodorant? Uhhh? I’m terrified of needles……what if…..?”

“Mrs. Jones?”

While this may seem silly or maybe a bit amusing to you, the reality is we don’t know what a patient is personally going through when they come to us for answers. We don’t know their state of mind, their battled emotions, or if their car broke down on the way in.

Regardless of their lives outside of our diagnostic imaging world, it’s our responsibility to “handle with care” (and proceed with caution). To provide a safe and welcoming environment all the while ensuring quality and expertise in our respective fields.

It can be difficult at times to put some people at ease based on their specific needs, ailments, personalities, etc. But for the most part, incorporating a few simple steps can positively impact your patient’s experience. Here are five simple ways to help put your patient at ease.

Five Simple Ways To Put Your Patient At Ease

1. Introduce yourself.

Your patient is already nervous, possibly in pain, and wants more than anything for this all to be done and over with. Introducing yourself allows you to engage with your patient on a personal level. You know their namenow they know yours.

This is essential as it fosters a positive patient-technologist relationship. Good communication skills are crucial here and it’s extremely important to be aware of your non-verbal communication as well. If you are speaking to the patient but avoiding eye contact, this may negatively impact their first impression, causing distrust.

Make it a point to slow down, make eye contact, and speak clearly. Oh yeah, don’t forget to smile!

2. Make a connection.

Or break the ice, so to speak. Make small talk as you walk down the hall. If you notice the patient is wearing a team jersey, comment on it to encourage rapport.

Compliment them on a great pair of shoes they’re wearing or a cute hairdo.

Whatever the case may be, make sure it’s genuine. Most people can tell if you’re not being genuine which discredits everything you’re trying to accomplish here. Being truthful is always best.

In doing so, you are creating a positive and small distraction for your patient. And most people love a sincere compliment! Don’t you?

3. Explain everything taking place before you begin.

Let’s put things into perspective here. If you are about to give someone you just met “open access” in your most vulnerable state, it’s only courteous to be informed of what’s to come.

Okay. Maybe that’s a stretch, but you get what I’m saying.

If the patient is having an MRI, they’d appreciate knowing that it’s LOUD, they’ll have to undress, remove all metal, and possibly need an intravenous catheter for contrast injection. A nuclear medicine bone scan requires a radionuclide (Technetium-99) that remains in the body for about three days post-injection. (This is especially important if they have travel plans via airplane or cruise ship during that time.) CT scans may require them to drink a 32-ounce beverage for an hour before the study is performed.

When a patient knows what to expect and things go accordingly, they tend to relax and trust the process. Things usually proceed smoothly from this point on.

Avoid skipping this step for the sake of time as this makes the patient feel rushed and will likely increase anxiety. Patients can tell when you’re pressed for time.

4. Let them lead when appropriate.

Patients often feel powerless as they are pretty much at our mercy during their exam. Allowing them to lead, when appropriate, restores a personal sense of control.

For example, ask if it’s ok to use immobilization devices to help them keep still. They may be able to remain perfectly still without them so don’t assume they need or want to use them. This is especially important if your patient is claustrophobic.

Most of the time, you’re able to work around any issues that arise with positioning. So adjust accordingly while still respecting the patient’s limitations and wishes.

5. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

I can’t stress this enough! Patients, well most people in general, like to be kept in the loopespecially when it comes to their health care. Let them know what to expect, advise of any delays, and keep them informed along the way. This ensures a smooth transition throughout.

Bonus Advice…….

After the exam is complete, personally escorting your patient out to the lobby, gives one last opportunity to address any questions or concerns they may have. One of the most common questions I hear is “when can I expect the results of my imaging study?” Because it’s so common, I go ahead and offer this information as we are walking out. This also translates to the patient that they are important — you saw them through to the end of their visit.

A firm handshake and a simple “thank you for allowing us to serve you today” speaks volumes. If you can get your patient to exit with an extra pep in their step, they’ll be back.

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Healthcare Imaging Supervisor and copywriter. Love to coach and mentor current and future healthcare leaders. Email: copybyindisheila@gmail.com

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Indisheila Arana

Indisheila Arana

Healthcare Imaging Supervisor and copywriter. Love to coach and mentor current and future healthcare leaders. Email: copybyindisheila@gmail.com

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