How to Handle a Shy or Embarrassed Patient .pdf
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How to Handle a Shy or Embarrassed Patient
It is something every nurse faces at some point--a patient that is
embarrassed to the point they are very uncomfortable. There is no way to
totally eliminate the embarrassment; however, there are ways to try and put
the patient at ease so that they are comfortable receiving the care they
When you need to gather information from a patient that is either
embarrassed or very shy, it can be a very uncomfortable situation. Be very
professional, and to the point. Ask questions that are direct and to the
point, and be sure to keep the patient on the subject at hand, they may
want to deviate from the medical situation at hand if it is embarrassing to
them. Make sure the consult is in private, and address the issue of a family
member being present, the patient may prefer to be alone for the consult.
The more professional you are, the more comfortable the patient will be.
Related: What Qualifications Should a Potential Nurse have?
Bring up Questions and Concerns
Some patients may simply be too embarrassed to ask questions pertaining
to their condition. Try to cover the medical condition in its entirety, and
provide advance answers to questions that may be embarrassing to the
patient. Ask the patient if they have any questions or concerns. If the
medical condition is of a sexual nature the patient may be apprehensive to
discuss it, or to pose any questions. Do what you can, to put the patient at
ease, and consider providing literature or reading materials that may cover
the condition in detail. Make sure the patient understands they can ask any
question and you will not pass judgment.
Using Good Body Language
Communication is done more with the body than with words. Avoid an
intimidating stance when discussing a condition that the patient is
uncomfortable with. Never give the look of surprise, or allow yourself to be
uncomfortable taking information from the patient. Don't pass judgment,
stick to the facts, and always be professional. The more you speak with the
patient, and gain their confidence, the more at ease they will feel.
Working with a Shy Patient
Approaching an uncomfortable or Shy patient can actually be excruciating
for the patient. Approach them in a friendly manner while still being
professional. Limit questions to what pertains to the medical issue at hand.
The less the patient feels put on the spot, the more comfortable they are
likely to be. Be patient, it may take them some time to actually bring up
concerns and questions. Listen carefully and provide positive responses,
such as, “its good you came in”, it may help provide some confidence to the
patient. Never talk down to the patient, they already feel uncomfortable,
and if they feel as though you think of them in a negative light, or
unintelligent, they will only feel worse.
Related: Top 5 Qualities all Leading Nurses should have
Many patients are reluctant to discuss their condition. Despite frequent
reminders not to be afraid because “doctors have heard it all and seen it all”,
patients still end up telling little white lies in an attempt to make the
dreaded conversation slightly less awkward. But what if they were given the
choice to talk to a ‘virtual human’ about the problems instead?
Much research has explored the question of how to encourage patients to
answer honestly and in more detail during medical interviews, particularly
for sensitive or embarrassing issues. Health care professionals are expected
to foster honesty by establishing rapport with their patients with various
verbal and nonverbal techniques - for example, saying “uh huh” at the right
times, performing the occasional head nod, and otherwise giving the
impression of sympathy during conversations. Scientific literature also shows
two psychological barriers preventing patients from answering medical
The ultimate goal is to make the patient as comfortable as possible so that
they will convey their symptoms and concerns. In order for the physician to
make an accurate diagnosis, it's important for them to have all pertinent
information. A nurse actually wears many hats, so to speak, you care for,
provide instructions for, administer medical procedures to, and counsel to
the many patients that you see in a day. It may not always be easy, but as
a nurse, you do what is necessary for your patient, and that includes making
them feel comfortable when discussing embarrassing medical conditions and
Related: Leading Registered Nurse Jordan Alexander Nalos, RN is to be
Published in the Worldwide Leaders in Healthcare
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