Long Article

7 Ways Technologists Can Reduce Patient Anxiety During CT Scans

CT technologists do much more than take images of patients’ internal organs. They put patients at ease before procedures. They answer questions. Technologists are vital in creating positive patient experiences.

It is common for patients to feel nervous, anxious, and even scared before they undergo CT scans. A patient's trepidation may be caused by many reasons. This includes claustrophobia, the imaging results, and potential radiation exposure.1

Their anxiety may be problematic. The quality of scans can be affected if patients are anxious during CT imaging.2

Reducing anxiety may reduce involuntary motion by the patient, which can cause image artifacts. Making patients feel at ease also may make patients were comfortable and have better imaging experiences.2

No matter what causes anxiety, technologists must do whatever they can to make patients feel more comfortable.

How to Reduce Patient Anxiety

The following are ways technologists can improve communications and provide better patient experiences:

1. Technologists should acknowledge all patients

As soon as a CT technologist meets a patient, the individual should greet the person and introduce themselves. This is the perfect time to address any concerns, explain what the technologist does, and get patient history.3

2. Technologists should describe the scan and how long it takes

To ease anxiety, it is essential that patients understand what they will experience during a CT scan. This understanding includes any sensory conditions like noises and changes in lighting. Also, they should be provided accurate information about any delays, as well as the length of the test.

A lack of details about wait times or delays can hurt a patients experience.3

3. Technologists should give patients opportunities to ask questions

Providing prompt answers to questions can immediately reduce stress in many patients. Giving thoughtful responses in a professional but friendly manner can help build a rapport and put patients' minds at ease.3

4. Technologists should exhibit certain behaviors

One of the easiest ways to make patients feel comfortable is for a technologist to show they are interested and engaged. CT technologists3 should communicate in ways that show they can:

  • Express concern and empathy
  • Understand the nature of problems
  • Calmly accept problems
  • Express optimism or hope

5. CT technologists should acknowledge patients fears and provide appropriate emotional support

Each patient needs different types of support. Technologists should ask patients about their anxieties and the kinds of support they find helpful. Developing educational approaches that combine the facts about a patient’s clinical condition with short-term psychological interventions that aim to reassure, address irrational beliefs, and relieve anxieties can help reduce a patient’s stress levels.

6. Technologists should make patients aware that they can be reached during a procedure

Some patients worry that if a problem arises during a scan that they won’t have a way to reach a technologist. The Journal of Nuclear Medicine2 study showed that letting patients know alert technologists if any issues arise during a procedure helped relieve some anxiety. The study showed that better indicating to a patient that an active intercom system is available to help.

Researchers also saw significant reductions in quantitative anxiety levels when patients had access to all devices.

7. Technologists should be gracious

After giving instructions before scans and after they are completed, technologists should thank patients for their cooperation and participation. Demonstrating gratitude will help keep patients relaxed and feeling good as they wait to hear about their results.3

The right strategies can help reduce patient anxiety before CT scans

Technologists play a central role in radiology departments, and much of their responsibilities depend on effectively communicating with patients.

Focused, accurate, timely information reduces patient anxiety. When discussing imaging procedures with patients, it is essential that technologists provide specific details, along with realistic expectations, so they have the best possible experiences.

References:

  1. Heyer, CM., et al. Anxiety of patients undergoing CT imaging – an underestimated problem? Academic Radiology. 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25239843 Web. April 28, 2019.
  2. Acuff, S., et. al. Reduction of Patient Anxiety in PET/CT Imaging by Improving Communication Between Patient and Technologist. Journal of Nuclear Medicine Technology. 2014. http://tech.snmjournals.org/content/42/3/211.full Web. April 28, 2019.
  3. Itri, J. Patient-centered radiology. Radiographics. 2015. https://pubs.rsna.org/doi/full/10.1148/rg.2015150110 Web. April 28, 2019.