Friday, May 17, 2013

How Health Care Professionals Can Help Patients with PTSD

The nurse in radiology handled things poorly.  But what should she have done?  How can  health care professionals best help patients that have PTSD?

Here are some tips, but the most important thing you can do if you are a health care professional is to ask your patient how you can best help.  Not all people with PTSD are alike.  They don't all have the same needs.  The patient is the one that knows her condition best.  She is the one that knows her needs best.  Ask, and listen to the answer.


  • Ask the patient how you can help.
  • Listen to the answer.
  • Acknowledge her needs as valid, even if you don't fully understand and even if you can't meet every request.
  • Offer alternative solutions if you can't do exactly what the patient requests.
  • Ask the patient if she can think of alternative solutions if you can't do what she initially requests.
  • Think outside the box.
  • Explain procedures fully to the patient before beginning them.
  • Give the patient time to ask questions and express concerns.
  • Tell the patient what you're getting ready to do before you touch her.
  • Tell the patient she can let you know if she needs to take a break at any time during a  procedure.
  • Check in with the patient often during a procedure to make sure she is OK, to see if she needs anything, and to see if she needs to take a break.
  • Introduce yourself and any other health care professionals that come into the room, explaining their role to the patient.
  • Protect the patient's privacy.
  • Allow the patient to have a support person present if at all possible (and it is usually possible, even if it's not typically done; for instance, support people aren't usually permitted to accompany a patient into surgery, yet that is routinely allowed when a woman is having a Cesarean section, and could easily be allowed during other types of surgery).
  • Give the patient choices whenever possible.
  • Remember that the patient has the right to refuse any procedure for any reason.
  • Suggest that a patient's needs or requests are unreasonable.
  • Tell the patient she shouldn't worry or be afraid or feel whatever she feels.
  • Deny a patient's request for a particular accommodation without suggesting an alternative or asking the patient is there is something else that might meet her needs that would be permissible.
  • Deny a patient's request for a particular accommodation just because that's the way you always do something, without considering whether or not a patient's request could be met.
  • Try to push a patient into doing something she's not comfortable with or suggest she's being silly or stupid or irresponsible if she chooses not to go through with a particular procedure.
  • Tell the patient a procedure isn't "that bad" or doesn't hurt "that much" or otherwise suggest she's overreacting.
  • Try to trick or coerce a patient into going through with a procedure if she is uncertain or doesn't want to do it.
  • Continue with a procedure if a patient asks you to stop.

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