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Tips for making stress tests less stressful

Posted on: 08.11.16 by Digirad

Having a stress test go wrong or take twice as long as you expected is no fun for you, or your patients. Communication is an important tool and providing practical instructions prior to and during the test can make a world of difference. Aside from the standard list of instructions, here are some additional tips that will ensure your patient is prepared, comfortable and knows what to expect.

One week before the stress test

  • Patients coming directly from work may not be wearing clothes suitable for walking on a treadmill, especially one that will gradually increase in grade. Make a note to remind them to wear comfortable, loose-fitting workout clothes.
  • Remind patients not to apply lotions or moisturizer the day of the test.
  • Make sure patients know to bring running shoes, or at least comfortable shoes that are conducive to walking on a treadmill. No boots, loafers, sandals, heels, flip-flops, or any other non-supporting shoe.

Before the test begins

  • Take the time to explain the treadmill to your patient. It’s important to remember that this might be their first experience walking on one. Let the patient walk on the treadmill to see how it rolls before you start the test.
  • The location of your treadmill plays a role in how the test goes. Ideally, the treadmill should be positioned to look out a window, at a poster, or a picture. A patient’s tendency is to look down at their feet and by giving your patient something to look at, it encourages them to keep their head up and looking forward.
  • Talk to your patient about the symptoms they may experience during the test. Hip pain, knee pain, and muscle cramps can be direct results of walking on the treadmill. Alerting patients that these are normal and common symptoms will minimize anxiety.

During the test

  • Give your patient control of the test. Point out the e-stop and let them know that they can use it if necessary. This will alleviate any anxiety about being unable to stop the test if they are in excessive pain or can’t continue.
  • During the test, be sure to give your patient advance notice of the stages. As you increase the speed and grade every 3 minutes, let your patient know so that they feel more comfortable anticipating the changes.
  • Encourage your patient along the way. Tell them you’re looking to see how long they can stay on the treadmill or if they can reach a specific target heart rate. Having a goal to reach helps the overall results.
  • At the end of the procedure, gradually decrease the speed of the treadmill until it stops. Let your patient stand static on the treadmill for a moment or two in order to minimize any dizziness.

While these simple tips aren’t groundbreaking, incorporating them into your process can improve the experience for you and your patient. Either way, you’re delivering better quality service to your patients, and that’s what matters.



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