What to Know Before Setting off to the Doctor

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There are many things that can be done to make certain medical test procedures more bearable. But the catch is patients have to ask for them and too often, nurses and doctors fail to tell their patients they are possible. Nancy Michaels, an author and speaker who advises hospitals and health-care providers on effective ways to improve patient satisfaction, says patients need to advocate for themselves by asking that treatments and procedures be less painful.

The author of Patient Speak, 7 Communication Practices to Improve Patient and Family Experience, offers these actions every person can take if they are nervous or feeling uncomfortable about an upcoming treatment:

  • When getting blood drawn, drink plenty of water. It makes it easier to access the necessary blood samples.
  • Ask for ShotBlocker when blood is being drawn or when you’re getting an injection.
  • Before getting an injection, ask the nurse, technician or physician to dry the area they swiped with an alcohol pad.
  • Ask for lidocaine cream for shots before receiving potentially painful medical procedures such as inserting a catheter or breathing tube.
  • Ask for one part bicarbonate per 10 parts lidocaine to avoid pain during the insertion of needles.

Praise for Patient Speak

“Words matter. The things physicians and nurses say have an outsized impact on our patients’ physical and emotional health. Nancy Michaels’ book Patient Speak provides helpful guidance on what to say and how to say it. Following this advice will help us be better clinicians and better people.” — Daniel Z. Sands, MD, MPH, Harvard Medical School and Society for Participatory Medicine

“My work focuses on what works for people on their journey towards best health. Our journey depends on the relationships among all members of our health team. Relationships rely on responsive communication. I have little energy to teach my team unless I feel fairly well. Our time is now. Let’s use it well. Nancy Michael’s 7 Communication Practices provides a concise guide to share with your clinician team members. Keep a spare on hand to share.”  Danny van Leeuwen, @HealthHats

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