Caring for the Emotionally Stressed Patient

Mental/Emotional Support

According to Stanford Medical Hospital, research indicated that when patients are comfortable and have friends and relatives involved with their care, their clinical outcomes tend to improve. Mental and emotional support is vital for the care of an emotionally stressed patient.

In your role as a certified nurse’s assistant, you will often act as a conduit between the patient and the family. When family or visitors arrive to see the patient, help create an open atmosphere where family and friends can comfortably visit with the patient.

For example, grab an extra chair if necessary. Open the blinds to light up the room if the patient desires. In these circumstances, it’s the little things that often go a long way. Remember that for some people, hospitals and the healthcare environment in general can sometimes be intimidating. Do your best to soften the atmosphere.

Moreover, for some patients who don’t have any family or visitors, you and the other medical staff may be their only contact. In these circumstances, just taking the time to talk to the patient may be that little bit of extra support that helps get them through the day.

Understanding Human Emotions

The quality of physical care is important for your patient, but a qualified nurse’s assistant will also remember not to overlook the opportunity to maintain a positive bedside manner. While many doctors are focused on treating the condition and symptoms of the patient, it’s up to you to help provide a source of emotional support for them.

Patients in the medical setting will often go through a wide array of human emotions. Coping with injury, pain and illness can cause frustration, fear and stress. Knowing how to handle these basic human emotions can make your job a lot easier.

Coping Strategies

In healthcare settings, patients are confronted with a myriad of issues that can cause frustration. You will often be at the front line of their complaints and concerns. These concerns, no matter how big or small, are often heightened when a patient is hospitalized or in a setting in which they have no control.

An effective method to help calm the patient down is to let them voice their concerns while you listen. This is known as active listening. In this capacity, you will often act as the messenger who relays their concerns and complaints to the nursing staff.

You will certainly have days that you may be tired or aren’t feeling up to par. That’s only normal, but remember to always stay calm yourself. Getting mad will only escalate any potential negative emotion or situation. Displaying a calm and positive demeanor at all times will help to reassure the patient and will also lessen any of their anxieties or fears.

Rapport Building

When you take the time to build rapport with the patient, it will have the natural effect of increasing their trust with you. This will be extremely beneficial in your ongoing relationship with them.

Along with active listening, there are other techniques that will help you build rapport. Always be reliable; if you tell your patient that you’re going to do something, stick to your promise and deliver.

You can still set boundaries for unreasonable requests by gently explaining to the patient the proper procedure. A polite refusal is better than an unfulfilled promise.

Furthermore, when appropriate, use humor to help break the ice. This technique may be more suitable after you have already laid the groundwork for effective rapport with your patient.


Q.  True or FaLSE: Having patients with family and friends who are actively involved in their care can help patients to have less stress and improved mental health?

A.     Patients who have a supportive family and friends seem to have a more improved outlook and can even see improved health when they are suffering a health crisis.

Explanation:  A strong support system can go a long way in helping an individual to have reduced feelings of stress.  If a person is not lonely and realizes that they have people who care for them, they are less likely to suffer depression or are more likely to struggle with their emotions for a shorter amount of time.  Having a positive outlook can also help a person to have the strength they need to see improved health when they are having a serious health problem.

Q.  True or False:  Patience can go a long way in helping patients who are emotionally stressed.

A.  True:  You spend a great deal of time with patients each day when you are working as a certified nursing assistant.  Having patience with your patients can help the person to feel a bit less stressed, less lonely and even a little less frustrated.

Explanation:  Patients who are ill and stressed often feel alone and very confused, upset and sad.  Showing patience and compassion to the people you work with will help that person to have more positive feelings which can go a long way for their physical and mental health.  It is also important that you understand that when patients are emotionally stressed they might say and act in ways that they do not mean.  This is another reason why it is so important to always remain patient with your patients.

Q.  How can good interpersonal communication skills help when working with patients who are having emotional stress?

A.  Good communication skills will assist you in developing a good relationship with your patients.  If you communicate well with your patients, they are more likely to trust you.

Explanation:  Having good communication skills will allow you to build a good relationship with your patients.  A good relationship with your patient can go a long way in helping that person to combat feelings of being lonely and frustrated.  You are also more likely to notice if a patient is having a new health struggle or increased struggles if you communicate well with them.

2 Responses to Caring for the Emotionally Stressed Patient

  1. kimetria June 18, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

    I took the exam on June 14th I passed the skills and failed the written I have to retake on July 19th and studying the Mosby nursing book is not helpin I need help what should I do

    • Sheryl PR, RN March 31, 2022 at 2:31 am #

      Find a tutor. One that will give you example questions, similar to the exam. A good tutor can help explain the correct answers and improve your critical thinking, problem solving and written test taking capabilities.

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