How Doctors Can Help Patients Stay Positive Amidst Pain and Suffering

October 28, 2017
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Doctors and healthcare workers – especially those in hospitals and emergency care settings – have a number of responsibilities. And while caring for the physical well-being of patients is obviously the number one priority, many feel the burden of helping patients maintain a positive outlook amidst serious pain and suffering.

5 Tips for Helping Patients Stay Positive

As a doctor or healthcare worker, your job is to help patients overcome illnesses or manage symptoms. In other words, your primary obligation is their health. Unfortunately, many healthcare workers only focus on physical health, when in fact, mental well-being is also a very big responsibility.

In order to adequately help patients through difficult situations, it’s imperative that you care for their mental health as well. This requires you to assist them in their pursuit of a positive outlook while suffering through trying circumstances.

Here are some tips you should find useful:

1. Notice the Little Things

It’s important that patients take note of the little things. In doing so, they’re able to stop focusing on the looming big things, i.e. cancer, surgery, chemotherapy, death, etc.

The problem is that it’s difficult for patients to actively notice the little things on their own. They need people who will point these things out, and you can help. While it’s a cliché, taking one step at a time is often the best thing a patient can do.

2. Point Patients in the Right Direction

When patients are dealing with a particular issue, you can point them in the right direction. Avoid ever offering specific financial or legal advice, but don’t hesitate to provide general suggestions so that patients can sort through their options.

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One of the most pressing issues for people with chronic health issues or imminent procedures is finances. In fact, the financial side of things can sometimes be more stressful for a patient than the actual health issue. Encourage patients to pursue as many options as possible, including medical crowdfunding, charity care, or even borrowing from retirement.

3. Control What You Can Control

Here’s a very simple, yet incredibly difficult concept to convey to patients: only try to control what you can actually control. In other words, the patient cannot control the disease that’s ravishing their body. However, they can control their response to the disease. Sometimes it takes months or years to realize this, but once a patient is able to grasp this concept, it will fundamentally transform their entire view on life.

As a healthcare worker, the best way to help patients adopt this perspective is to lead by example. Make a point of never trying to control anything that’s outside of your grasp. Instead, hone in on the things you can control and maximize these opportunities.

4. Repeat Daily Affirmations

While some people believe it’s an oversimplified way of looking at healing, there’s ample evidence to suggest repetitive positive affirmations promote physical healing. While not every patient will be inclined to rely on positive affirmations, some will be. If you believe you have a patient that will respond well, consider writing down some statements for them to review on a daily basis. These include things like:

  • My body is actively reorganizing cells and attempting to fight off this disease.
  • Everyone has cancer cells in their body. My body is simply relearning how to identify and remove them.
  • Of the trillions of cells in my body, only a very small percentage are cancerous.
  • Miracles happen every single day. My diagnosis may be 1 in 100 – why can’t I be that one?
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Simple affirmations like these can have a recognizable mental, and even physical impact on your patients.

5. Celebrate Everything

“Finally, celebrate everything – birthdays, anniversaries, the end of chemo,” says Gloria Nelson, a senior oncology social worker who facilitates support groups for those dealing with life threatening medical conditions. “Nothing’s too small to celebrate. None of us ever knows how much time we have left, and this is a great way to make the most of what we have.”

By celebrating everything, you put your patients in a mindset where they seek out reasons to be thankful. Having this mindset – as opposed to one that’s constantly trying to find situations that back up the “woe is me” theory – is both powerful and healthy.

Putting it All Together

While helping patients stay positive amidst pain and suffering may come more natural to some, it’s important that each and every healthcare worker hones this skillset. By combining emotional support with physical care, you can help patients maintain a much better outlook.