The Best Way to Motivate Patients in Recovery .pdf
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The Best Way to Motivate Patients in Recovery
The period following surgery can be the most challenging time a person
might face in his or her life. Many patients are simply afraid to walk after a
surgical procedure. They may be concerned that they will fall, or that
sutures may pull apart. Offer support in the form of a walker or wheelchair
until the patient feels they can maintain their balance. It may take some
time to assure them the sutures are secure; however you can remind them
that avoiding mobility is more of a danger than the concern of the sutures.
Even though the surgery itself might be live-saving, the postoperative weeks
of recovery are painful, frustrating and boring as your body heals. Healing
itself is a process that can’t be rushed; it takes as long as it takes, and if you
try to do too much before you’re physically ready, you can actually cause
That being said, there are ways you can optimize your recovery time,
ensuring that you heal as well and as quickly as possible.
When it comes to motivating your patient, eating healthy is crucial. If their
surgery is planned, and the patient has weeks or even months before the
procedure, encourage them to take that time to get their diet in order.
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Advise the patient to drink lots of water and concentrate on eating lean
protein, fruits and vegetables. “Protein is key for cell recovery, while
antioxidants promote healing and boost your immune system by fighting
free radicals, thus reducing the odds of a postoperative infection.”
No other change in diet is necessary — that includes taking any
supplements, unless prescribed by the doctor. In fact, “Some [supplements],
like omega-3 fatty acids and ginseng, may cause surgical complications such
as increased bleeding; others may interfere with anesthesia.” Healthy
eating should continue after surgery as well, the better the diet, the better
the patient will feel, and heal.
The rule of thumb is to have surgical patients up and walking as soon as
possible. Walking can prevent blood clots and pneumonia. Many patients
are very reluctant to walk after a surgical procedure. It can be painful and
uncomfortable; however, it is necessary for recovery. Provide the patient a
schedule that they can follow for walking times, and schedule your visits
around the designated times so that you can encourage the patient to walk.
Resistance is a very common reaction, especially in older patients. Remind
the patient that the sooner they can walk, the sooner they can recover, and
continue to provide that message, and they will not heal unless they walk as
prescribed by their physician.
Motivating a Reluctant Patient
Behavior change is a gradual process, accomplished in stages through which
the patient must progress. Not all at-risk individuals will be ‘ready’ to
change and behavioral interventions should be tailored accordingly. Raising
awareness of the problem and providing relevant information in a nonconfrontational manner may help increase an individual’s readiness to
attempt physical therapy.
The Patient's Willingness and Determination
Health-related behaviors are determined by a person’s understanding of the
issues involved and by their perception of how relevant these issues are to
their personal circumstances. For change to occur, they must believe that
their behavior makes them vulnerable to a particular health problem, that
the problem is potentially serious, and that the benefits of taking action
outweigh the potential costs. Social factors, such as social norms or ideals
and the attitudes of friends and family, can also influence a person’s
willingness to engage in behavioral change. Some patients assume that
after surgery, they should remain bed ridden.
Fear of failure can be an important barrier to change. Health care
professionals have an important role in enhancing the patient’s self-efficacy,
or confidence in their own ability to realize a particular goal. This involves
not only providing reassurance and constructive feedback, but also giving
them the skills and resources they need to achieve success.
Goal setting and action planning is one tool that can help patients to improve
diet and physical activity, particularly when they are planned in collaboration
with a health professional. Action plans with a high probability of success
are preferable, since even small successes can increase patient self-esteem
and motivation. The SMART acronym has been used as a guideline for
setting suitable goals and refers to goals that are Specific, Measurable,
Achievable, Relevant and Time-framed.
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•Identify a target behavior that would benefit the patient’s health.
•Discuss the link between behavior and health, and the patient’s perception
of its relevance to their own situation.
•Assess the patient’s readiness to become mobile, per the degree of
resistance encountered, and tailor the consultation accordingly.
•Avoid being judgmental or confrontational and do not persist in advocating
change when resistance is high.
•Explore and empathize with the patient’s own motivations, feelings and
beliefs. Encourage them to weigh up the pros and cons of behavior change
in their own words.
•If a decision to change appears imminent, guide the patient towards
formulating their own action plan to become active again.
•Encourage them to set SMART goals (up to three), incorporating behaviors
that can be easily integrated into their current lifestyle and have a high
probability of success. Support from family, friends or other patients may
help achieve those goals.
•Discuss potential barriers to change and how the patient plans to deal with
•Provide access to information and other resources that will support the
patient in the process. Individualized computer-generated materials can be
•Maintain contact, provide feedback and encourage self-monitoring of
•Recognize that relapse is common and does not constitute a failure of the
process. Discuss options with the patient to deal with in-met goals. The
patient may cooperate one day with physical therapy, and they following
Have family members assist in encouraging patients to work toward
recovery. Many insurance companies will reject paying for a hospital stay if
the patient is not making progress on a daily basis. Be certain that the
patient understands the repercussions of being discharged if they don’t
demonstrate initiative to move forward in their recovery. Every patient is
different, and will recover and heal differently; however the importance of
being as mobile as possible is the same for everyone. Be patient, but
persistent, most physicians leave very strict orders that their patients need
to be mobile following their surgical procedure.
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