Ever had a patient swing at you or even try to bite you when you were simply trying to help? Your patient probably didn’t mean any harm by it. Patients have to endure many uncomfortable procedures, and they are often embarrassed by their health conditions. Nurses out there that have had to perform a gastronomy tube (G-tube) flush know that it isn’t a very enjoyable experience for anybody involved, especially when the patient is extra upset that day.
A gastronomy tube is a tube that is placed in the stomach for the administration of food or medicine. Gastronomy tubes are also used to help drain fluids or vent the stomach of excess air. These tubes need to be flushed with water before and after being used to feed or medicate the patient, or every 8 hours. This process can be uncomfortable for patients, as excess air can build up in the G-tube and be extremely painful.
In order to avoid being punched or even bitten by unruly patients when doing a G-tube flush or other procedures, it is important to make patients feel as comfortable as possible. Here are some tips for how to help patients feel their best during uncomfortable procedures and keep their hands to themselves.
- Remain Calm with the Patient
Many patients feel like they have lost complete control over their bodies when dealing with a limiting health issue. Patients can get very angry and disagreeable because of their distress. It is the job of a nurse not only to assist with medical procedures but also to be calm when approaching patients. Instead of reacting to rebellious patients by matching their anger, remain calm, which helps them feel relaxed. By using calm body language and a relaxed tone of voice, your patients will feel like you genuinely care about them and feel less compelled to swing at you.
- Use Understanding Communication
Proper communication with patients can be just as valuable for their healing as the medical treatment itself. During uncomfortable procedures, such as a G-tube flush, it helps to talk with patients to remind them that you understand what they’re going through. Really take the time to listen to the patients when they tell you about their difficult condition. When patients vent to you, they are telling you the root of their problems and that they need your help.
If you act defensive and say something like, “You have no idea what you’re talking about; I’m the professional here,” you better put ‘em up and prepare to get right-hooked by that patient. Tell your patient something like, “I understand your frustration with the circumstances and your concerns about your condition.” Help your patients feel like you aren’t judging them. Nurses should be respected, but this only stems from having integrity and being respectful with every patient regardless of the condition.
- Be Aware of Personal Space
It is important to honor the personal space of every patient, especially the unruly ones. A G-tube flush is a hands-on procedure where nurses need to physically handle the patient. During the procedure, it is important to be aware of body language to see if the patient may become violent. If a patient is angry or violent at any time, keep a safe distance and call for help if you feel the patient may cause harm to himself or herself. Invading a patient’s space can worsen anxiety. Keep a safe distance of at least two arms’ length or 4 feet away to respect personal space. In the case when you feel a patient may snap at any minute, talk from the doorway to give some personal space, and block the escape route so the patient doesn’t cause harm to others. Standing slightly at an angle with your arms at your side, instead of a full frontal position, is a non-confrontational position that won’t make you look aggressive toward an aggravated patient.
Helping to de-escalate uncooperative behavior helps patients receive the treatment they need as safely and quickly as possible. Preventing violence and helping patients remain calm is always the right answer. A nurse who is confident in the ability to truly care for patients will help patients feel confident that they are receiving the genuine care they need.
For more information about how to deal with aggressive patient behavior, check out our article, “How To Defuse A Tense Situation: 5 Expert Tips For Dealing With Aggressive Patients.”