Last week I had to have a test done that I had been told by my doctor would be uncomfortable. She instructed me to take ibuprofen prior to the test to manage the pain. I arrived to have the test done and was feeling a bit anxious. The wait in the waiting room was not helping my stress level. My name is called and I’m brought back to a room to get changed into a hospital gown and again to wait. Questions are racing through my mind and my name is finally called. I sign consent to have the test done and of course I can’t remember any of the questions I planned on asking.
As I am lying on the table, right before the test is about to start, a physician walks in and is walking towards me. The nurse in me is freaking out. There are already 3 people in this room besides me, why is there a fourth? Is something happening that I don’t know about? Is something going to happen that I’m not prepared for?
He walks over to where I am laying and introduces himself. He is a provider from the practice that my doctor works in. He grabs my hand and holds it. The test didn’t even start, how can he already have bad news for me? He begins asking me questions about my life. The distraction is somewhat working but the discomfort is present. I take note as to just how hard I am squeezing his hand. The test is done and he helps me to sit up. He goes through the results of the test. He explains everything to me and gives me a plan for possible follow-up.
At this point I am about to cry. Not over my test results but about the fact that this stranger was so kind to me. Having any type of medical test done can cause stress, anxiety, fear, sadness, loneliness, and all sorts of negative emotions. He held my hand, which eased my pain, fear and loneliness. He distracted me and made me laugh, which erased my sadness for those moments. He reviewed the results of the test as soon as the test was complete which dissolved my anxiety about waiting to know what was going on with my body.
As I was leaving the test I was somewhat in shock at this doctor’s behavior. As a nurse I have held many a hand during a bone marrow biopsy, lumbar puncture, etc., but I had never had my hand held. Keep in mind that not all situations allow for this type of behavior from a provider. However, when we get the chance to, we should hold a hand, we should try to distract our patient’s minds and we should attempt to ease their anxiety. It is scary being a patient and there is so much we can share from the other side of the bed to make our patient’s lives just a little easier.