You’ve done the “usual” stuff with your agitated, anxious patient. You’ve exhausted their PRN medications, tried distracting them with TV, and gave them reassurance. What else can you do?
1. Use Opposites Sometimes patients respond differently to different people. If you’re having trouble calming your patient down, sometimes you just need a new face in the room. A rule of thumb is to use opposites. Are you a male? Get a female. Do you look young? Get someone who looks more ‘mature.’ It might do the trick.
2. Use Their Language Is English their primary language? If not, you might be in luck. All you have to do is find some way to connect them with someone or something that speaks in their language. Find a staff member to reassure them in their language. Call an interpreting service, if your facility has one. If all else fails, Google Translate is very handy! You can type in what you want to say in English, it will translate it, and you can have it playback for the patient.
3. Call in an Expert Some people just have a knack for defusing tension. Find that person on your unit and use them as back-up. It could be a person with an always-cool demeanor who is great at de-escalation. Or it could be the motherly nurse who can make anyone feel comfortable. Maybe it’s the nurse with an awesome sense of humor. Ask them for help!
4. Education and Information How is this unique? Isn’t this something every patient receives? Yes, but sometimes we assume patients are either too anxious or confused to benefit from education. Print out some materials. Read it with them if they can read, or read it to them if they can’t. Even confused patients still feel a sense of productivity and accomplishment from reading educational information.
5. Use the Nurses Station Simple but often overlooked. Sometimes patients are restless because they feel trapped! Every time they try to leave, everyone rushes in and stops them. Break the pattern by getting a chair or recliner, and planting it (with the patient in it) at the middle of the unit. Everyone can see them, and they don’t feel trapped anymore!
6. Call Family Look in their charts, find their primary contact, and give them a call! They are your best resource for calming down your patient. Who knows them better than family? You can either ask for advice, or simply hand the phone over after explaining your predicament.
7. Utilize YouTube Have a smartphone? Or laptops on the unit? Even your COW/WOW? Go onto YouTube, search ‘Hilarious Cat Compilations,’ and you’re golden. No matter how confused, no matter the language barrier. funny videos are funny videos. Call it…virtual pet therapy!
What do you think of these techniques? Have you tried them? Do you have some of your own? Share in the comments below!
Kevin is a psychiatric nurse and owner of Kevin’s Review, a site for nursing students preparing for the NCLEX.