The human instinct to nurture our young is why adults, especially healthcare workers, tend to have a soft spot for them. Compared to dealing with grownups, we tend to listen and understand young people better, and we have more patience and tolerance for them. Our attitude changes when we see a 3-year-old girl in pigtails smiling and waving at us. We do not sympathize with an adult receiving an injection like we do with a toddler.
Caring for young patients is a rewarding experience, but it is not without its challenges. Because CNAs spend the most time by the bedside, they spend a lot of time interacting with their patients. But, having a soft spot for kids is not enough when providing their medical care. As a nursing assistant, you'll need special skills so you can gain your young patient’s trust, encourage them to participate in procedures and treatment, and ease their fears and anxiety.
Here are some practical strategies that are proven effective in dealing with pediatric patients:
1. Age does matter.
Children’s needs vary according to their developmental age. For example, infants, toddlers, and preschoolers feel safer when their parents are with them during examinations and procedures. The opposite can be true for older school-aged children and adolescents who value their independence.
An adolescent feels awkward being in a room with toys and colorful drawings whereas toddlers and preschoolers are more relaxed in this environment. Children who are 3-5 years old will have a fear of wounds and cuts, so it’s a good idea to hand the nurse some colorful adhesive bandages to cover needle marks after an injection.
2. Everything starts with trust.
A vibrant greeting with a smile works best with infants to school-aged children before every procedure, while a simple greeting with a sincere “How are you?” sets the stage for engaging teenagers.
If you have an infant patient, playing peek-a-boo with them before helping them change their clothes will ensure their cooperation. Building rapport should be the first step when dealing with young patients.
3. Communication is key.
Know the child's name to make conversation more comfortable, and at the same time don't forget to introduce yourself. Explain procedures using simple language before performing them. This is also a matter of trust. Encourage the child and give recognition when it’s due. Saying “That was so brave of you!” and “Good job!” can provide reassurance.
Children are by nature good-hearted and are more than willing to extend help whenever they can. When doing procedures, ask for their help instead of making them do a task. For example, say, "Can you help me by keeping this thermometer under your arm?" This way, they feel that they have been a good helper and feel good about themselves.
Keep conversations light and try to find out what they are interested in. Use your time during procedures to encourage them to talk about their feelings and concerns.
Never lie to your patient, especially about the pain that is expected with a procedure. Instead of “This won’t hurt a bit,” say, “There is some pain but your pain medications will help lessen it.”
Toddlers and preschoolers don’t understand time using a clock. Telling them that you will wheel them to the X-ray department at 1 p.m. would not make sense to them. Associate the activity with their daily routine. Instead, say, “I will take you to the x-ray department after lunch.”
4. Get down to the patient's level.
Hospitals and healthcare workers intimidate children. When you stand towering over them and talk to them as they play, they feel anxious. For very young patients, it helps to build rapport when you meet them at eye level. If they are squatting, they respond better if you also squat or sit down beside them.
5. Have some things that can keep your patient preoccupied.
Paper and coloring materials are a good way to distract children as well as help them express themselves. For older children, puzzles and books are good choices.
6. Reward your patient.
Young patients respond well when they are rewarded, so if they have cooperated and the procedure is finished, give a sticker to a preschooler or a simple collectible to a school-aged patient.
7. Ask parents to help or to be present.
When it comes to reducing the young patient's anxiety, their parent's presence and help can work wonders. For very young patients, request their parent's help. If school-aged and adolescent patients try to brave it out and choose to be independent during a procedure, telling them that their parents are nearby helps them relax.
Caring for young patients is a privilege. As CNAs, let us help children who need healthcare services to have a pleasant experience while receiving care.
Try reviewing the course material on vital signs in children class from our course library.
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