Conquering the Big Leap: How Hospital Staff Create Relationships to Lessen Surgical Anxiety

Organization: Author:
Marcel F. Daniels, MD; Patricia Eckenroth, RN
Live Health Topics:

As patients prepare to undergo surgery, anxiety is expected. A myriad of thoughts may race through the minds of patients about to have surgery, and quite understandably, many unanswered questions can cause a patient to delay or forego a procedure altogether.

Leading up to a surgery, preoperative and postoperative nurses and doctors share the knowledge they have about surgical procedures to help alleviate the fear patients feel associated with their operation.

Having surgery is a lot like jumping out of a plane, especially for those choosing to have cosmetic or elective surgery. In the beginning it may seem like a good idea, but as it gets closer to its start one may start to question their reasoning. Risks will always accompany surgery, but when an individual assesses those risks and decides to face them willingly, as in the case of cosmetic or elective surgery patients, the procedure can seem even scarier. One can imagine the level of anxiety that may accompany this experience and the amount of anxiety may vary from one extreme to another.

Patients having cosmetic or elective surgery generally have more surgical anxiety in comparison to reconstructive surgery patients. These patients don’t necessarily have to undergo a procedure for medical reasons, so they are faced with a lot of decisions to make. In the case of reconstructive surgery, patients are more prone to proceed with an operation out of necessity. Although there are different reasons as to why a patient may have surgery, the fear is still very real.

In order to lessen surgical fears, patients should have open communication with the physicians and nurses on staff, which can give them the confidence to make the appropriate choices about their procedure. Here are some ways physicians and nurses play a role in lessening surgical anxiety:

  • Providing thorough resources that detail surgical procedures for patients
  • Encouraging patients to read over surgical information sheets, which discuss reasons for a procedure, surgical risks, complications, procedure duration and more
  • Letting patients know that any and all questions are valid
  • Sympathizing with patients through and after the procedure
  • Creating bonds with patients and their families through laughter and a welcoming spirit
  • Being honest about their surgical abilities and consult/direct patients in their surgical decisions
  • Conducting preoperative and postoperative visits to share procedural examples and answer any questions
  • Offering patients referrals for secondary opinions

If surgical patients are given this kind of care from the time they step onto the plane to the time they are ready to take the big leap, metaphorically speaking, fear can be significantly lowered. Surgical patients should know that operations involve risks, but the more they become informed and create trusted relationships with their doctors and nurses, the better the experience can be.