Radiology nurses share how they're tackling patient anxiety prior to imaging

Most nurses take it upon themselves to help calm patients before they undergo imaging, but there’s little understanding as to which approach works best.

That was one of the main takeaways from a survey of nursing professionals published Feb. 18 in the Journal of Radiology Nursing. Authors of the study also found that more than 60% of respondents formally assessed patient’s pre-procedural anxiety, utilizing a number of different approaches.

Most relied on educating the patient about their procedure to quell any fears, while a number of other practitioners endorsed everything from empathy and anxiety medication to traditional and alternative medicine, Arif Musa, with Wayne State University’s School of Medicine in Detroit, and colleagues wrote.

“The role of nurses, as frontline care providers in the pre-procedural setting, is pivotal in assessment and treatment of pre-procedural patient anxiety,” the authors wrote. “Despite the critical role of radiology nurses in reducing patient anxiety, the views of nurses regarding how to best address and manage pre-procedural anxiety are not well known.”

Musa and colleagues sought to better understand this topic. They sent out a 14-question email survey asking about nurses’ assessment, perceived importance and reduction of pre-procedural patient anxiety. In total, they tallied 370 responses from individuals in the Association for Radiologic and Imaging Nursing database.

After analyzing the results, Musa et al. found that most nurses believed anxiety prior to diagnostic imaging or interventional radiology procedures has an impact on patient experience and clinical practice; 60% believe it interfered with the quality of care.

The vast majority of nurses supported using educational tools (94.2%) and empathetic communication (92%) to help calm patient fears. Other popular approaches included anxiety medication (66%), family presence (63%), familiarizing patients with the facility (26.8%), and traditional, complementary and alternative medication (19.1%).

Prior studies have found similar claims among radiologists and other imaging providers, who believe it is important to gauge and address patient anxiety. Like nurses, these groups also utilize a variety of methods to calm such fears.

“A reliable measure of pre-procedural anxiety may be comprised of a formal anxiety assessment worksheet, as part of the intake form,” the authors concluded. “Future randomized controlled trials are needed to determine whether similar assessment techniques, and therapeutic modalities such as patient education, empathetic communication, and combinations of techniques, significantly reduce pre-procedural patient anxiety in interventional and diagnostic radiology,” they added.